What Is Vocal Presence? and What's a Feedback Loop Got To Do With It?
What Is Vocal Presence?
What has a feedback loop got to do with it?
I'm fascinated by people who have a magnetism, natural charisma, and the ability to draw people in to whatever they are saying. I'm also fascinated by the mind, body, breath, voice feedback loop.
Whenever someone wants to improve their vocal or executive presence, this feedback loop always comes into play.
You usually hear about the "mind, body, spirit" connection. The Buddhists speak about "mind, body, and speech (or voice)."I add breath to the loop because breath is the power for our speech: we speak on exhalations after we "inspire."
It is also what allows us to stay calm and present. Learning to speak on long, full exhalations actually keeps us calm and clear-thinking. Now, I'm not talking about big gulps of air; just full inhalations where you allow your breath to drop deep down into your body. Breath-holding and shallow breathing, a tendency many of us have, take us out of our bodies and block us from being in flow. Everyone recognizes the experience of "freezing" while speaking. Expert work and meaningful connection require flow, and that means continuous breathing.
This correct way of breathing, with breath dropped down into your settled and grounded body, also ensures a more deliberate rate and delivery, making you sound and feel more in control, confident, and credible.
Hearing yourself speak this way, and feeling this energy created in your body send messages to your brain "You're fine; you're safe; you're in control."
Ignoring or racing your breath leads to only bad things! You can easily compare your breath to your spirit. In fact, in Greek and Hebrew, the same word is used for both breath and spirit.
What's all this breath and spirit talk?
This gets us away from thought as the most important element of language and meaning. Rene Descartes's "I think therefore I am," is becoming less and less accurate as more recent science tells us that our emotion and our thinking are inseparably connected.
You still following? Like I said, it's a loop!
Your feelings matter. The messages your body is sending to your brain matter. That is why a grounded, breathing body creates the best vessel for voice to travel, sending out the messages you need it to.
Put your brain in your belly...
Or as we're more likely to hear it "Listen to your gut." The Greeks said that underneath the diaphragm was a spot called prapidessin, which means "under your crowded thoughts." This, said the Greeks, was the somatic seat of your intellect- the mental powers and emotions key to understanding. The more neuroscience tells us about the connection between the brain and the gut, the more we realize the Greeks were on to something.
The feedback loop of breath, body, voice, and mind plays a huge role in my work, whether I'm addressing voice, public speaking, accent reduction, vocal exploration, or executive communication skills.
Abraham Maslow, aside from giving us the hierarchy of human needs, said of great communicators "They listen to their own voices: they take responsibility... They find out who they are and what they are... aware, not only of the godlike possibilities within, but also of the limitations."
Now back to earth…
In a nutshell
Here's my advice: Tune in to your gut more often. When you feel your mind racing, your breath held, or yourself panicking, "Stop, drop (your weight and your breath), and breathe." Pay attention to what your gut is telling you.
We are all at risk of too easily and readily imbibing the values of our particular profession, current cultural mores, society, family... instead of truly tuning in to what we believe and value. A voice that does that rings true and is a gift to us all.
And that is a huge part of what vocal presence is all about. It's simple. It's just not always easy.