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Let Your Voice Do the Leading

An expert in vocal mastery shows how to take charge of your voice, because how you speak matters as much as what you say.

“Champions do it differently.” So says a man who knows, having trained world-class athletes and business leaders on how to use vocal awareness to convey authenticity, energy and command.

As Arthur Samuel Joseph, Founder and Chairman of the Vocal Awareness Institute, points out, athletes, dancers and those who seek to excel in any field must apply themselves to learning every nuance of their craft. Why should communication be any different? In his view, it isn’t, nor should it be. According to Joseph, “When you own your voice, you own your power.”

In a recent YPO program titled, “The Voice of Leadership,” sponsored by YPO’s Entertainment Industry Network and hosted by Patrick Sweeney, Joseph led participants through a series of facial and vocal exercises designed to help them relax, become aware of their breathing, and focus on the release of sound in a natural and pleasing way — exercises he recommends performing on a daily basis. This sense of mindfulness is a key element to vocal training. He notes, “Mastery requires alignment and engagement of the mind, the body and the spirit.”

Getting in shape with 7 rituals

To help build vocal mastery, Joseph recommends a series of seven rituals. Before beginning the rituals, it is important to “stand in stature,” which involves standing upright in a relaxed manner, holding no muscles stuff. Then, begin the rituals:

  1. Thank the source. Thank yourself for the opportunity ahead.
  2. Love and let go. Release negative feelings; open yourself to upcoming events.
  3. Allow a slow, silent, conscious, loving breath. Note the difference in the way the body reacts — more relaxed and holistically — when the focus is on “allowing” the breath, rather than “taking” it.
  4. See the edge and arc of sound. This consists of projecting the voice in an arc that propels forward and upward from the body, in roughly the same pattern as a plane takes off from the runway.
  5. Take your time. Do not rush; being vocally aware entails thinking about what you are doing — again, mindfulness.
  6. Pay attention; listen more deeply. Listen to the sound you are making. Is it pleasing? Does it project? Is it in the lower ranges? Are you using all your breath?
  7. Be yourself. Vocal mastery does not mean trying to sounds like someone else. Instead, it should enable you to be your authentic, best self.

Some may focus on a big meeting or an important speech as the target for the use of vocal mastery, but Joseph encourages thinking beyond narrow limitations, as he is equally concerned with what happens before and after those events. For example, he recommends performing a small subset of the daily exercises five to seven minutes before a big event — just as an athlete stretches and warms up before a game. He calls this a “mastery moment” and points out, “The meeting actually begins before you walk into the room.”

As for after, Joseph notes that athletes don’t cross the finish line or score a goal and then just stop. They keep on going. “I always remind my clients of the importance of follow-through,” he notes, adding, “There are 41 yards in the dash, not just 40.”