The Wall Street Journal
March 15, 2012
(TRICKS OF THE TRADE)
By CHERYL LU-LIEN TAN
Style Asset: a Great Voice
Your sound can have as big an impact as your look. "When I hear a
voice, I hear instantaneously who a person is," says Arthur Joseph, a
Los Angeles-based voice and performance coach whose clients have
included sports stars, CEOs and celebrities.
Mr. Joseph, 66 years old, likes to think of every professional
encounter, whether it's a business meeting, teleconference or
networking event, as a performance--one that he has carefully
Well before an event at which you have to speak, Mr. Joseph recommends
recording yourself in a conversation and listening to it. Your goal,
he says, is to decide: "Does that sound like the person I want to
Often, hearing the playback can help you pick out "um," "like," "you
know" and other tics that can make you sound unsure of yourself.
Another thing to listen for is rushed speech, a common problem. That
can convey an anxious feeling that "I don't want to take too much of
your time," he says. "It might be perceived as 'I hope you like me.' "
Younger people and others more used to texting than talking often
don't realize how fast they speak.
If Mr. Joseph has to give a presentation or speech, he writes it out
and rehearses it for hours. "We don't realize how much work it takes
to be natural in public," says Mr. Joseph, who once spent more than
100 hours rehearsing an important 22-minute speech with a client.
Mr. Joseph marks up a paper copy of his speech, underlining words he
wants to stress and circling periods at the end of points he's putting
across. That "helps the storytelling," he says--ensuring he emphasizes
key points, for instance. He likes to underline the last word of a
sentence, reminding him to end strongly. A common problem: "rushing to
the end of our thoughts--thus rushing our breathing, losing the
message and disconnecting from our audience," he says.
Next, Mr. Joseph practices in front of a mirror, paying close
attention to how he looks as he speaks. He makes sure his posture is
straight and allows him to breathe freely. He also thinks about making
eye contact with listeners. If he finds himself using "um" and other
tics, "I stop and start all over again," he says.
He rehearses a presentation until it feels natural. When people are
too focused on trying to remember what they want to say, "they can't
embody the storyteller in the moment," he says.
Mr. Joseph is careful about warming up his voice. "There isn't an
athlete or dancer who doesn't stretch their body before a
performance," he says. He typically starts his day with a warm-up: He
sits up straight and opens his mouth wide, making a sound that starts
as a loud yawn and ends as a sigh as he gradually closes it, repeating
this for seven minutes. This can bring your voice to your "optimal
pitch," he says, often making the tone a little deeper and richer.
Right before he goes on stage or enters a room, he finds a quiet spot
where he can do a 10-second voice warm-up. Before walking in, he says,
"it's important to take that moment to focus."
Write to Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan at email@example.com
A version of this article appeared Mar. 15, 2012, on page D3 in some
U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Style
Asset: a Great Voice.
Founder, Vocal Awareness Institute Inc.
Has been coaching voice and performance for more than 40 years.
Clients have included football player Emmitt Smith and actor
Author of "Vocal Power: Harnessing the Power Within," "The Sound
of the Soul: Discovering the Power of Your Voice," and other CDs
Edited by: firstname.lastname@example.org on