Whether you’re presenting in a meeting, standing up on stage in front of a conference or having a virtual coffee with your boss, you’re using your voice. As most of us have been speaking since we were toddlers we sometimes take our voices for granted and don’t recognise them as the incredible tools that they are. And like all tools, there are ways we can improve performance.
Daniel Alexander, or Das Voice, is an award-nominated professional actor and voice actor. He recorded his first voice over work back in 1999 and since then his voice has featured in video games, radio and television adverts, online explainers and much more.
We sat down with him to ask how to use our voices better when we’re presenting.
“The most important bit of advice I can give to anyone who is presenting or recording themselves, is that they need to slow down,” Alexander said. “When I direct some of my colleagues, or they direct me, and these are trained actors who have done this for twenty years or more, the standard direction I give in a one hour session, three or four times is “slow down, you’ve got more time.””
People should “go slower than they are comfortable with… because when people are uncomfortable, they speed up.”
It’s critical that we speak slowly because “you know what you’re going to say – your audience does not.”
“I’ve yet to meet anyone who needs speeding up,” he adds.
How we position ourselves matters too. Even if you’re not on camera in a virtual meeting or presentation, it’s still important to sit up straight.
“Your voice changes based on movement – it’s different if you’re standing or sitting,” Alexander said, “People should do what feels more comfortable for them – they can sit or stand, it doesn’t really matter. What is most important for this sort of thing is that their body position is upright but relaxed, because if you slouch you sound slouched.”
“Even though people only hear the voice in the voice over… it’s still a whole body performance. If I’m doing an explainer video my whole body will be in a particular way and I still make movements with my hands, even when there’s no one to see.”
His final piece of advice is that old favourite – smile. “People should smile even if only their voice is heard,” Alexander said. “Smile or be friendly – if only because that also slows them down.”
While our audience might not be able to see that smile, they can hear it. A study from the University of Portsmouth confirmed that not only is a smile something you can hear, listeners can even pick up which type of smile a presenter has. In the same way body language and slouching can be heard in your voice, so can your facial expressions. So if you want your audience to hear enthusiasm and positivity in your presentation, deliver it with a smile.
Of course, not all topics suit a smile, so be sure to consider the appropriate emotions and facial expressions to support what you’re saying.
Why not try out Alexander’s 3-S’s in your next presentation or virtual meeting?
Don’t forget to:
- Slow down
- Sit up
Main image by FreeStocks.org on Pexels. Inset image (C) Daniel Alexander.