Through my many years as a voice specialist, I have found some very interesting correlations between the professions we choose and whether we speak with color. Color is the life, the emotion, the animation one exudes in talking be it at the lectern, in the sales meeting, over the phone or in a one-on-one conversation.
From my experience, I have found that athletes, research scientists, and CPA’s often don’t express much emotion in speaking. Please understand that I am generalizing: one of the most colorful groups with whom I’ve worked was my former accounting firm in London, Ontario. By no means did any of those people fit the ‘mold’ of the typical accountant.
Color is heard not only in the voice but is seen in one’s facial expression as well as one’s body language. Harrison Ford is a wonderful example of excellent facial expression, excellent body language. The tone of his voice is somewhat static – he doesn’t display a lot of variety in his voice – but as an actor in the types of roles he plays, he almost doesn’t need his voice: his face and his body display or ‘speak’ every emotion he is feeling.
To see just how expressive you are (or aren’t!), watch your face in a mirror and say the following statement – She said yes – as if you were delighted. Now say those words again – She said yes – as if you were disappointed. Did you notice a difference in your facial expression between delight and disappointment? If there was no difference, then you probably need some work.
Let’s work with – She said yes – again. This time when you look in the mirror, smile when you say it and nod your head up and down just a bit. (Don’t overdue it.) Did you notice a difference? Now when you say – She said yes – I want you to frown and shake your head back and forth as if you were sad or disappointed. Was there a difference? If you noticed a difference, then you’ve just taken the 2nd step to speaking with color.
Record yourself saying – She said yes – the first time as if you were delighted (you just found out you won the lottery) and the second time as if you were disappointed (your mother-in-law is coming to visit for 6 months). Play back the recording. You should notice quite a difference if you can ‘act’ in those two manners. I’m not advising you to act in normal conversation; however, expressing some emotion after finding out you just won the lottery or discovering your mother-in-law’s impending visit is normal. It is natural. It is what most people do.
When I teach color I explain to my clients that I want them to straddle the fence, meaning too much color is as bad as not enough color. Sometimes a client will exaggerate his or her ‘color’ which is not what I’m looking for. Exaggerated color is seen on the stage. That is the only place for it. Exaggerated expression sounds ridiculous because it is inappropriate. So if you already express emotion when you speak beware that you don’t go too far in improving on your delivery.
At the lectern, I often find that many people who are normally quite expressive have a tendency to lose their life, their color, their emotion. They are so overcome with panic and fear, they don’t allow themselves to be expressive. Their voices turn white and their faces pale as they spit out a pile of words with little or no emotion. If this sounds like you, then you need to change.
A colorful delivery of your presentation or your speech is what is going to grab and keep your audience's attention. When you can be expressive on the podium, then you are on your way to becoming a dynamic public speaker.
Nancy Daniels is a voice specialist and president of Voice Dynamic. Working privately and corporately, she will be holding her next Voice & Presentation Skills Workshop in Toronto on September 14 & 15, 2007. To learn more about her Workshop, click on the following link:
Additional Resources covering Public Speaking can be found at: