Why It Matters That We Can’t Hear You

I have coached lots and lots of people who speak softly. 

They all have insightful points to share, and thoughtful ideas to contribute. But every time they speak half of the group misses what they’re saying because they simply aren’t speaking loudly enough.

I have written often in this space about how audiences need to do their part in creating a dynamic and effective environment—it’s not all on the speaker or presenter to cater to the listener. But in this case, in a quiet room when everyone is paying attention, no one can address the issue except the speaker herself.

If you have gotten feedback that you speak too quietly for others to hear you consistently, if people frequently ask you to speak up or repeat yourself, you have a habit of speaking too softly for the room you’re in. When we have to strain to hear you we run the risk of misunderstanding what you’ve said, and it starts to feel risky to rely on you. We may turn to you less often. We may stop trying so hard to hear the great ideas you have to offer.

It can feel very vulnerable to speak more loudly, but start with an easy experiment. In a meeting setting, ask a trusted friend or colleague to sit in the seat farthest away from you. Agree on a signal they will use to indicate that you can turn up your volume by one click, two clicks. Support your voice with your breath and send it out to that friend. It may feel like an enormous difference to you, but my bet is that the adjustment will be just right.

We want to hear what you have to say. Literally.

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