| It was a cold, rainy November evening. I didn’t want to leave my house for a professional meeting. But the buzz was strong enough to pull me towards the warmth of a new friend, the extroadinarily gifted Barbara McAfee, singer, songwriter, vocal coach, speaker and consultant. She presented a fun and enlightening program about how we can use our voices to truly express ourselves.
I am more than thrilled that Barbara has written her first book called Full Voice: The Art and Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler, 2011). Please do make an investment in this insightful guide. Full of practical tips, it will help you use your voice to support the meaning and message you truly want to convey.
If you buy Full Voice on Oct. 5th through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Berrett-Koehler a donation will go to 50 Lanterns, an organization which provides solar lanterns to people in the developing world.
Recently Barbara was kind enough to respond to some of my questions about her important work. Check out her responses and video clip below.
What inspired you to write this book?
What is the main message you hope readers will take away?
Your voice matters more than you think. What you say and how you say it needs to be congruent in order for people to “hear” you. It’s possible to expand the range, flexibility, and ease with which you speak. When you change your voice for the better, other aspects of your life change right along with it. Learning to pay attention to your own voice makes you a more skillful listener as well.
What are the top 3 mistakes people make with their voice?
First – Not paying attention to the voice at all. People often spend a lot of time preparing what they’re going to say without practicing how best to say it.
Second – Relying too much on the throat alone. The voice is most effective and interesting to listen to when it’s connected to your vital physical energy.
Third – Getting stuck in one vocal sound in all circumstances. Various situations demand different tones of voice. We have many more vocal choices than we imagine possible. Most of us never get a chance to discover what they are and learn how to use them in our everyday lives.
Many introverts say they are uncomfortable speaking loudly, yet they’re often told they need to “speak up.”
I’ve worked with many introverted leaders over the years. I always tell them that outward expression will always be a “second language” to them. Even so, it is possible to become quite conversant in that language with practice. We use characters – such as Luciano Pavarotti or Martin Luther King, Jr. – to help introverts open up more power in their voices. Once they get used to the feeling of being louder and more present, we work to integrate those sounds into their everyday communication.
Can you describe the Five Elements and how it can be applied?
The Five Elements Framework breaks the voice into five distinct colors, much like a prism creates a rainbow out of sunlight. The elements are Earth, Fire, Water, Metal, and Air. Each one is sourced in a specific place in the body and expresses certain qualities. For example, the Fire Voice is sourced in the belly and is useful for expressing passion, personal power, and physical vitality. The Water Voice is sourced in the throat and heart and is useful for expressing caring, compassion, and affirmation. The framework allows people to choose the right voice to effectively communicate their message.
What do you mean by “vocal presence with awareness?”
Vocal presence is the state where your words, facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, emotions, imagination, and spirit are all fully engaged and congruent in conveying your message. The way to cultivate vocal presence is through awareness – paying attention to where your voice is coming from, how it sounds, and whether it matches up with your message. As your awareness of your own voice increases, it makes you listen with more accuracy and insight.