Why is it that even when you deliver a concise, home-run message about yourself, and really listen to others when they speak, networking doesn’t always give you what you hope for? If you’ve worked hard to apply various techniques you’ve read about for networking and this is happening to you, consider this: sometimes, it’s as simple as your voice.
Voice is not just pitch and tone; it is a direct reflection of who you are. When it’s not congruent with you or what you are saying, it can distract or dissuade others from listening and helping. Luckily, just like polishing your elevator pitch, there are ways to make sure that your voice is working with you and not against you. I am not talking about training your voice to make you sound like someone else—i.e., more “speakeresque”, or like a radio announcer. I am talking about finding your voice and speaking in it and from it.
My favorite expert on this topic is April Sotura, owner of “Voicing Self”. (www.voicingself.com). April has been working in this field for 25 years, and has provided vocal coaching for business professionals, artists, speakers, scholars, writers, and musicians all over the world. I love what she has to say on this topic, below. Although she is referencing speakers in general here, this absolutely applies to the speaking that goes on during networking conversations where your “audience” is whoever you are conversing with:
“….You have gained authority and passion in your life and your work! Yet when you stand up to speak before an audience your mind is numb, your limbs are leaden, and your own voice sounds to you like it belongs to someone else. You might ask yourself, who is that masked speaker?
…Think of it this way, an audience responds to congruency. This includes your content, your gestures and body language, and the quality of your vocal tone. The more comfortable you are in your own skin, the more comfortable and receptive your audience becomes. The sweet truth is that human beings are hard wired to seek congruency and meaning.”
I’ve been in networking situations where try as I might, I struggled to stay focused on the person talking to me. Something about his or her voice sounded forced, or just plain didn’t match what he/she was saying. You don’t want that result during networking!
If you’ve tried everything else and are still not getting the results you want, explore your voice. If you get serious about doing this, I strongly recommend that you work with someone like April Sotura because you’ll need an outside ear. At the very least, start asking people you trust for help. Even non-professional feedback can give you information that you’ve overlooked before. And that feedback might be the missing ingredient in your networking!