Voice Power: Using Your Voice to Captivate, Persuade, and Command Attention

Voice Power: Using Your Voice to Captivate, Persuade, and Command Attention



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Ever wonder what makes us buy from a certain salesperson or prefer one TV news announcer over another? In each case, a human voice is subtly captivating our ear and commanding our attention.

Now celebrity voice coach Renee Grant-Williams reveals the trade secrets behind those persuasive voices and shows readers how to apply positive vocal techniques to business and personal situations. Much more than a guide to proper breathing or voice projection, this is a life-altering ""owner's manual"" to unleashing and directing the powers of communication within one's speaking voice. By exploring the rich connections between singing and speaking, Grant-Williams helps readers:

* Evaluate their ""VoicePower"" quotients
* Literally breathe new life into their voices
* Tap the amazing power of consonants--and silence
* Deliver sales pitches virtually guaranteed to sell
* Turn a voice mail message (incoming or outgoing) into a personal calling card
* Become more confident, persuasive presenters and public speakers

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814471050
Publisher: AMACOM
Publication date: 04/23/2002
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.44(d)
Age Range: 17 Years

About the Author

Renee Grant-Williams (Nashville, TN) is a well-known voice coach whose clients include U.S. senators, attorneys, salespeople, and vocalists such as Faith Hill and Randy Travis.

Read an Excerpt

Voice Power

By Renee Grant-Williams


Copyright © 2002 Renee Grant-Williams
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8144-7105-6

Chapter One

The Amazing Power of Consonants

SOME TIME ago, a young singer walked into my Nashville voice studio for a consultation - and I must say, he looked great. He was tall, handsome, had the perfect chin dimple, and melted into his jeans. He really looked like a "singin'" star.

But the high-wattage smile and winning manner couldn't disguise his frustration. He had been in Nashville three years and didn't understand why none of the record labels had signed him to a major record deal. Just looking at him, I was pretty surprised myself.

So, I asked to hear him sing. He had a fine natural voice. He sang in tune and his rhythm was good. It was all very pleasant, but before long, I found myself drifting off - adding items to my grocery list. He was not holding my attention.

Now that is a serious problem for a singer. Mr. Dimple had a good voice and he looked good, but this guy could have been arrested for loitering in front of a band. There was definitely something missing. It really made me think.

That same summer, a management firm brought me another young singer who made a completely different impression. He was friendly and sincere looking - like someone you would trust with your X rays or who might help you get your car running again. No movie star dimple. No flowing locks. And the jeans? Not bad, but you could see that wrestling with his weight might be an ongoing concern. Nothing about him hinted that he could be a major country star, although the management team that sent him was a good one and they certainly believed in him. I, however, didn't get it.

As soon as I heard him sing, though, I did get it. He didn't have the perfect voice. Or the loudest voice. Or the best tone in the world. But I couldn't stop listening. When he sang, I felt completely and totally engaged. I was hanging on every word. There was the mystery ingredient absent in Mr. Dimple.

So, what ever happened to Joe Bob Dimple? I think he's somewhere back home in Fresno growing raisins now. But the other singer? He went on to sell more records than any recording artist of the entire past century. It was Garth Brooks.

The Mystery Ingredient

Ever wonder what makes you want to buy a record album? Or go to a concert? Or search the radio for a certain singer? A great singer seduces your ear and makes you want to spend money on CDs and concert tickets so that you can hear them again and again. What is the mystery ingredient that helped make the difference in the career paths of these two singers? I call it the amazing power of consonants.

Now, you might say, Huh?! That's not exactly what I was expecting. You mean, consonants? Those things that aren't a vowel? Whatever that is? Yes, more than tone, more than vocal range, more than vibrato, more than volume, what makes a singer stand out from the pack is the way they handle the consonants. Listen to Garth and you'll see why his records sell. He draws us into his singing with bold, in-your-face consonants and the effect is mesmerizing.

Consonants can work for us too when we speak. They grab our listeners' attention and hold on to it. They underscore the intensity of our words and highlight our emotions. Any time you want to drive home a point, implant a thought, or punch up an idea, you can do it with a consonant. Once you know how to use them, you'll be amazed by how radically they increase the expressiveness, clarity, impact, and, ultimately, reception of your words. In fact, I don't know why it is so expensive to buy a vowel on Wheel of Fortune. Why buy a vowel when the consonants are worth so much more? Forget about vowels; start investing in consonants. Humorist Ruth Ollins had the right idea, "Dwn wth vwls."

Consonants in Action

Let's talk about the way vowels and consonants work together. Vowels are A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y and W. Which means that consonants are everything else: B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, V, X, Z, and sometimes Y and W.

In normal conversation, when we want to make a word or an idea stand out, we don't necessarily make that word LOUDER. Instead, we lll-engthen the consonant at the beginning of the word or syllable we want to emphasize. We create the illl-usion of louder by bringing everything to a halt while we wait for that word.

Think about that enduring television cartoon spokestiger Tony the Tiger when he says, "They're GRRRRRR-eat!" That long R holds us in suspense, drawing us in, making us believe Frosted Flakes might actually be great. Now what if he had said it this way? "They're grEEEAAAt!" Try it. You see? Not quite the same thing, is it?

If we rrr-eally want to emphasize something, we can stretch the consonant a long, lll-ong time. Try it yourself. Read that last sentence aloud, lingering on the two marked consonants. "If we rrr-eally want to emphasize something, we can stretch the consonant a long, lll-ong time." Pretty amazing, huh?

But why does this work? It's because speaking is like music. You have to think of words in speech as a kind of music. There is a flow to speech. A natural rhythm. A cadence. If we interrupt or alter that flow, we break the rhythm. This interruption serves to highlight important words.

When you want to draw attention to a particular word, stretch out the beginning consonant and delay the rest of the word. It's a heads up to your listeners that a word you hope they'll pay attention to is about to arrive. Like waiting for the other shoe to drop, it totally arrests your listener and mmm-akes them listen.

Consider the great singers of our time. I'll bet when you listen with new ears you'll find that your favorites make good use of consonants. Frank Sinatra was one of the best. He always went straight to the message: "Start sprrr-eadin' th' nnn-ews." He didn't sing spreadin' and news louder. Rather, he brought our attention to those words by lengthening the consonants. What if he had sung, "Staaart spreeeaaad-iiing thuuuh nooows?" Pretty boring.

Country music giant Patsy Cline was a truly awesome consonant singer. Listen to "Sweet Dreams." She sings, "Swww-eet drrr-eams of eee-you." Barbra Streisand has made an entire career out of singing on the consonants, as did Maria Callas in opera.

In rock and roll, Bob Seger is a good example. It's downright stirring when he sings his classic, "It's that old time rrr-ock 'n' rrr-oll." Now what if he had sung it this way, "It's that old time raaawck and rooohll?" You see? It's boring. I tell you, the amazing power of consonants plays a big part in giving these singers their signature sound.

The Temple of Great Vowels

I never learned a great deal about consonants as a conservatory student. You see, most formal singing techniques are vowel-driven. It's as if you are supposed to worship at "The Temple of Great Vowels, No Spitting." My teachers taught me to: "Sing on the vowels, dear, and just try to get through those pesky consonants so you can open up 'The Voice' on the next vowel." Well, I'm sorry, that is not the way real people communicate with each other. I didn't learn about consonant power in music school - it took rock and roll to open my eyes.

One day, I was walking past the television set, back when MTV was first being launched. And there was Jefferson Starship wailing away: "We built this city on Rrr-ock and Rrr-oll." Lead singer Mickey Thomas was doing these wonderfully sustained Rs and I had one of those life-defining moments - you know, when the lightning flash comes right through your forehead? Suddenly, it was all clear and I said, "Whoa! So, that's what it's been all along? You mean, I've been struggling with vowels when it's really the consonants that are important?"

It's easy to become caught up in technique and forget to sound real. If it required perfect vowels and a perfect tone, Willie Nelson would never have had a career. He doesn't have a big voice, but he's a wonderful, wonderful singer because he communicates when he sings. He talks to us heart-to-heart. That is what people truly value. And that is precisely what the consonants are all about.

Consonants for Clarity and Emphasis

Consonants help us communicate what we really mean when we speak. Let me show you how this works. I'm going to give you a four-word phrase: "We still love you." Notice, I've deliberately chosen words containing Y and W. I'm going to ask you to say this phrase aloud four times in four different ways.

For the first time, I want you to lengthen the W, which starts the word We. Make a separate oo sound for W. Imagine that you are a parent talking to your rebellious teenager. "Now all your friends might be mad at you, but we're your parents and oo-We still love you."

If you want to give a different emphasis to the same phrase, the next time you say it linger on the S of still. "No matter how late you've been, no matter how worried we were, we Ssst-ill love you." We're using the same four words, but this time it means something a little different.

Then try lengthening the L in love. "No, you're wrong. We don't hate you, we still Lll-ove you." And last, try lengthening the Y at the start of you with an ee sound. "We're not worried about those other kids. Let them stay out late, but we're your parents and we still love ee-You."

Go back and listen to how each of these examples puts a different spin on the meaning of those four words. Without a sense of where the emphasis lies, we may imagine something different from the original intention. Take the phrase, "I like cats more than most people." Does this mean that your fondness for cats is greater than the fondness most people have for cats? Or does it mean that given a choice between cats and people, you prefer the company of cats? Changing the emphasis changes the meaning. It's easy to understand why a politician would be nervous about being quoted in print.

The Rhythm of Speech

Say we want to emphasize the word me in the sentence "This is important to ME." And remembering that speech has a natural cadence that is similar to music, let's emphasize the word me by putting it on a strong beat. Like a waltz, it's da-da-dum, da-da-dum, me. This is important to me. And me falls solidly on the last beat.

We're taught in English class that the word me has only one syllable. In reality, however, the word me has two separate and sequential syllable sounds. First, we articulate the M and then the E. M * E. It's not one sound but two.

Now, the beat can only be at one point. But the word me has both an M and an E. Which of these two letters belongs on the point of the beat? The M or the E? If you guessed E, you were right. In our cadence of speech, we must place the vowel right on the beat. But, if the E goes on the beat, where does the M fit in? It must go ahead of the E, in the space before the beat.

And we can start the consonant a little before the beat or a lll-ot before the beat. If you want to stress that something is personally important to you, then start the M a lll-ong time ahead of the beat. You are indicating, "This might not mean much to you, but this is really important to MMM-e."

But did you notice that when you hold the M longer, it is a bit more difficult to make everything fit? There is a limited amount of time in a naturally rhythmic phrase. We can't keep putting stuff into the pot without taking something out of the pot. How do we find more space for that M? We eliminate something. We take time away from the previous word. We shorten the word to, or eliminate it, and go directly to the M. This is important t'MMM-ee. The word to will never be missed.

The Filler Words

All words are not created equal. You don't actually have to say all of the words merely because they are there. When we speak, we * do * not * pro * nounce * each * and * ev * er * y * syl * la * ble.

People tend to speed-listen in much the same way as they speed-read. When you read a good book, you * do * not * read * from * word * to * word * at * the * same * pace. No, your mind goes from important word to important word, glossing over nonessential or "filler" words, such as the, and, that, would, if, and but. Knowing where the sentence is headed, you automatically fill those in based on what your brain expects them to be. If your teenager comes home with a long rambling story that goes on and on for fifteen minutes, all you might hear is "car ... crash ... tree."

Filler words are part of the grammar of our language and we need them so that we don't sound like we just stepped out of a cave. But they're sort of the broth in the alphabet soup. We don't really want them to stand out. The listener wants to immediately get to the heart of what we're saying, understand it, digest it, and move on. People would feel inclined to strangle us if we talked like this: "Excuse * me * I * do * not * mean * to * trouble * you * but * I * believe * your * hair * is * on * fire."

Remember: Your listeners are actually speed-listening - skipping from key word to key word, mentally filling in the blanks. So back off everything they supply themselves - the, and, that, would, if, or but - and you'll have a naturally easy flow to your words. Writer Elmore Leonard put it this way, "I try to leave out the parts that people skip."

The $$ Words

That is how we handle the throwaway words, the filler words. However, certain key words and thoughts need time to resonate. So, lengthen the consonants at the beginning of words that are important to your message - the so-called money words. What are the money words? They are the one, two, or three words in each phrase that absolutely reduce it down to its basic meaning. They telegraph the essence of what you are saying. If you were leaving a message in the sand on a desert island, you wouldn't write,

"Help! Our ship sank and we've been here for three days with no water and only coconuts and I don't like coconut, well, once in awhile I'll eat a Mounds bar, but I really prefer Snickers and my lips are chapped and I don't have my Blistex."

"Help" would probably suffice.

In our example about the person with their hair on fire, the money word would surely be fire.


Excerpted from Voice Power by Renee Grant-Williams Copyright © 2002 by Renee Grant-Williams. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

"Section I: Techniques

Chapter 1: Your Voice Speaks Volumes

Chapter 2: Just Keep Breathing

Chapter 3: A Good Sound Foundation

Chapter 4: Silence Is Golden

Chapter 5: Theme and Variations

Section II: Applications

Chapter 7: Speeches That Make People Listen

Chapter 8: Increase Your Sales Volume

Chapter 9: Voice Mail Matters

Chapter 10: Your Voice: At Work

Chapter 11: Your Voice: In the World

Section III: Health and Maintenance

Chapter 12: Survival Tactics"

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