23Find Your Voice

Your voice is a powerful instrument for impromptu leadership. If you're too rushed, too loud (or soft), or seem out of breath, you will undercut your ability to engage others. This chapter discusses how to achieve a strong, confident voice by learning to breathe, grounding your voice, and achieving the ideal volume, tone, and pace.

Begin by Breathing

Learn the power of deep breathing. Each day we inhale and exhale over twenty‐three thousand times.1 But finding that needed wellspring of breath when you are about to speak extemporaneously is not easy, especially when you feel you're in the hot seat. As the rush of adrenalin flows through your body you may pick up the pace of your breathing and breathe more shallowly—with your respiration coming from the chest or throat rather than from the diaphragm. The result? You'll sound unsure, uncomfortable, and anxious. Breathless.

Reclaim that breath, that energy, that life force as a warm‐up for any impromptu encounter. Practice these simple exercises.

First, take deep, even breaths. Breathe in for a few seconds, then breathe out for a few seconds. Concentrate on what you are doing and count to two or three as you inhale and two or three as you exhale. Repeat this pattern until you feel much more relaxed.

Second, do a “body scan” exercise in which you consciously relax each area of your body. Begin with your toes, then your feet, your knees, your thighs, your stomach, heart, lungs, neck, and head. This exercise ...

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