Communication is central to work in the public sector, and nothing is more central to communication than voice.
Voice affects our confidence when delivering important messages and our ability to be persuasive when communicating with others.
Award-winning actress and executive voice coach Debra Lawrance co-presents ANZSOG's Communicate for Impact and Influence workshop, with ANZSOG Senior Fellow Zina O'Leary.
The two-day workshop covers all aspects of communication and is designed for anyone who needs to create evidence-driven communication that will inspire action. It teaches participants to draw on their own unique attributes to deliver persuasive arguments with a convincing presence.
Ms Lawrance's role focuses on using body and voice to deliver messages more effectively.
She says that the quality of a speaking voice can create either a favourable impression -- or the opposite.
"Everyone can benefit from vocal training, which should involve diagnosis of the current quality of the voice combined with the appropriate exercises for improvement," she said.
"The common misconception about voice is that if you seek out a voice coach you will be forced into a way of speaking that is artificial to you. This emphatically does not occur in my classes.
"ANZSOG participants will learn about the way the voice works in the body; will learn about their voice and what might be causing issues; and learn and participate in group exercises to improve the current quality of their voices. Nobody will sound like Julie Andrews -- as fabulous as she is!"
Ms Lawrance said that voice was a factor in professional success, particularly for women.
"It is no accident that people with pleasant speaking voices are often offered the top jobs, sometimes when they are not necessarily the right person for the role," she said.
"Those with a softer less clear voice can be overlooked, or not perceived to be useful at meetings. They can then feel less confident because they are often disregarded."
Ms Lawrance says that women are often unsure of the best way to speak in the workplace and fail to make the most of their natural voice, either through shyness, nerves or negative feedback from others.
The workplace, like all centres of power, has been historically dominated by male voices, and women's voices are often seen as weak or powerless, regardless of what they are saying, Ms Lawrance says.
While voice training cannot overturn all of these prejudices, Ms Lawrance says there are practical things that women can do to give their voices greater impact.
"The female voice is often higher in tone and less rich than the chest resonance in most men's voices and some women will resort to the upper, higher register in order to be heard in a male dominated situation. There are very good reasons why we perceive a deeper voice as more authoritative. A deeper voice is pleasant on the ear, without any jarring upper tones, so we feel safer and therefore trust more.
"This doesn't mean that women have to artificially deepen their voices, but there are specific exercises that can assist women to find their "warmer" tones."
Ms Lawrance said that anyone could benefit from learning more about their voice and using that knowledge to build their confidence when speaking. She said it was essential to work with a voice teacher rather than cherry-pick self-help ideas from books or confident friends.
"The voice is "trained" from birth by our caregivers so we tend to learn and follow the vocal patterns of family, and if we are around confident use of language we learn to also use the voice confidently.
"Conversely if the voice is not used confidently, people feel "shy" and unable to speak up and this manifests in later life as a tendency to feel extremely nervous when speaking in public.
"Learning to control our voices helps us to take control of situations and make the most of our potential at work."
Debra Lawrance will co-present Communicate for impact and influence on 27-28 May in Melbourne.
ANZSOG offers a wide range of workshops and courses for all levels of public service professionals. View all ANZSOG workshops.