While watching the funeral of Baroness Thatcher yesterday I remembered how important her voice was to her authority. You can hear the audio of how her voice changes during her time in office here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28_0gXLKLbk
At the start of her office it was such a gentle pleasant voice and under the guidance of tutor from the National Theatre she leant to drop the tone and add a strident authoritative quality to her voice.
I’ve worked in Engineering for the last 38 years and the role of women has changed. At the beginning women in Engineering were regarded as about as feminine as the Eastern European women’s shot put team, but now the roles are very much equal and more and more women are in team leaders’ roles. Still, for some women they retain the gentle pleasant voice that characterised Margaret Thatcher’s early office. I wouldn’t suggest there’s a necessity for every woman to develop the lower authoritative tone that Baroness Thatcher developed but I do think there’s a strong case for developing a tone that’s clearly business like and commands attention and respect.
You can develop your own style using a number of different vocal assets. Your pace and directness will set the tone of a conversation, making it clear that your are business focussed but we get so much of our meaning from the intonation people use (not the 38%/45% attributed to Albert Mehrabian) that it’s worth the effort to make sure your voice has the best tone for the business environment.
You could do this your self through vocal exercises are perhaps better to use a vocal coach. I’ve worked with two great coaches. From my time in the Professional Speaking Association I worked with Fergus McLelland and from my mastermind group a coach who came from an operatic background, Susan Heaton Wright who runs Executive Voice.
You may not be setting your sights on Prime Minister but your vocal quality can have a big effect on your career and it’s worth taking seriously to make the biggest impact you can in the workplace.