Three of the twenty-three years I worked in health care were spent in the Emergency Department of a busy community hospital. One of the funniest memories (how many funny things can happen in the ER, you ask? Well…you’d be surprised!) I have of that time is of “Sexy-Voice Girl”…or SVG as I will call her for short. Now I don’t think I ever actually met this woman, but every time I heard her was a memorable moment. What was most fascinating about the whole thing was witnessing the reaction of others around me.
SVG was a switchboard operator who also was responsible for making all of the announcements on the overhead PA system. She announced all sorts of things, such as cars with lights on in the parking lot, phone calls for doctors (this was before cell phone days), and emergency situations happening called “codes”. It was an important form of communication.
What was so unusual about “Sexy-Voice Girl”, was the tone of voice she adopted when on the loud-speaker. Imagine, if you will, a soft, breathy whisper slowly saying:
“Dr. Roberts…call two-two-two. Dr. Roberts…call two-two-two please.”
Did you imagine it? You may have to say it to yourself out loud for the full effect…try channeling Marilyn Monroe and you would have it right.
What would happen next:
People would stop whatever they were doing and stare up at the ceiling when this voice would come over the speakers. They would get these incredulous looks on their faces because it was almost unbelievable. It was SO unprofessional-sounding. There would be plenty of giggling. There would be eye-rolling. People would look at one another and shrug their shoulders or shake their heads. It was very amusing and a little embarrassing.
There was even a great determination of many to stroll past the Switchboard Department window to see if they could catch a glimpse of the person behind the voice, because everyone was curious! I have no idea if SVG had any clue as to the effect her performance was having.
What Do You Sound Like?
We sometimes switch into unusual voices depending on our circumstances. Have you heard people speak to babies? Sometimes, they get all gooey and silly and it’s no wonder the babies smile back! Or what about when people talk to their pets? All sorts of strange voice variations come out when people encounter a tiny little puppy (usually the voice gets higher-pitched and often begins with a loud “AWWWWW!” sound), or when meeting a big and burly Great Dane, the voice may get gruff and deep. We are strange creatures. What do you do around babies and pets?
To learn 5 things you can do to instantly have a more professional voice (and you can do these things right now), click the button below for your free tips:
Your Tone of Voice is Your Representation of Your Company and of YOU.
Many people I know have a particular “voice” they put on for work. Ask anyone who has worked for a major hotel or restaurant, and they will put on their “Plaza Hotel” voice for you. The movie guy at the start of all of those movies…the deep, rich voice that narrates…”In a world where there are few options…” You know what I mean.
The fact that we can change our voices to suit our situations means that we can train ourselves to sound more appropriate and professional if we put our minds to it. Take a little survey before you begin, and ask a friend or family-member you trust to evaluate the sound quality of your voice: are you too whiny? Too quiet and soft? Do you speak too quickly? Does your voice have cadence to it (higher and lower pitches throughout) or is it monotonous? This honest evaluation will assist you in identifying what it is you might practice in order to improve.
Some More Tips:
- Modulate your voice. Speak at a medium volume so that you can be heard, but are not shouting.
- Avoid using slang words or casual greetings. Use “hello” and “thank-you” rather than “hi” or “thanks”.
- Smile before you begin, especially if you are on the telephone. Believe it or not, that smile will translate into your tone of voice and you will sound friendlier and might even feel friendlier.
- Either record yourself speaking, or have someone else listen and track how many times you use filler words in your speech. (Filler words are words such as “like” or “um” or “right?” that don’t mean anything but fill gaps while you try to find the next words. Some of these will make you sound far less intelligent that you are!) Once you are aware of these words, you will notice them yourself and can then try to avoid using them. Habits can be hard to break, so this will take work.
- Don’t end every sentence with a question mark. It makes you sound unsure of what you are talking about and can be extremely distracting for the listener.
- Learn from good examples. Listen to people around you, especially in business settings where there has been some communication training with regard to voice. Many people who work with the telephone on a regular basis have developed very professional quality voice skills, and sometimes just listening and emulating what you hear can be very helpful.
Good-Bye Sexy-Voice Girl.
While it was funny for the rest of us, I imagine SVG would have been mortified to learn what effect she was having on those around her. For her sake, I hope someone coached her gently so that she was not a source of amusement and ridicule in the next job she ended up in. Maybe…just maybe, she ended up in the movies.
I hope this was helpful?
One thing that can really help with tone of voice, professionalism and overall communication is how well we are able to listen. Want to know more about listening and how it can help your career? Check out this popular Podcast Episode.