Want to sound like a leader? Start by saying your name right | Laura Sicola | TEDxPenn

Translator: Rafael Barranco-Droege
Reviewer: Denise RQ One of the hottest topics
in courses and books nowadays, with regard to leadership communication, is the concept of executive presence. What does it mean? How do you define it? And can it be taught or learned? The Center for Talent Innovation
identified three main pillars of it: appearance, communication
skills, and gravitas. Gravitas means things like
“Do your words have teeth?”, “Are you able to make
the tough decisions and stick with them?” One of the missing pieces when you think about what’s integrated
really between the lines of broad concepts like communication skills and gravitas is vocal executive presence, as I call it. It’s the missing link. How do you sound when you’re making
those tough decisions? Does your delivery reinforce your message
and establish the image that you want? Or does it undermine it? What happens if I’m trying to diffuse
a tense situation and I say: “OK, everybody just calm down now,
we need to reevaluate the situation.” At worst, I’m just adding
fuel to the fire, and at best, you may later on
gently suggest that I switched to decaf. It’s about how we connect. I end up working a lot with people who are preparing for presentations
and for press conferences, and they make statements like: “We’re very passionate about helping children and improving
the quality of our schools.” And I think to myself:”Really?
Because you could’ve fooled me.” There’s a claim of passion,
but there’s no evidence thereof. The problem is a disconnect between the choice of words
and their execution, their delivery. And this creates a problem of credibility. Now, there’s a historic and seminal study
that looked at feelings and attitudes as a result of the consistency
or inconsistency in verbal and nonverbal messaging cues. And what they found was that when they ask people
to evaluate speakers as far as whether or not they thought
the speaker sounded sincere, 38% of that evaluation was based
on the tonality of the speaker’s voice. Tonality being things like the ups
and the downs in your intonation patterns. In contrast, only 7% of those decisions were based on the speakers’ words
that they chose, and the remaining 55%
were looking at non-verbal cues, were based on non-verbal cues
like your posture, your eye contact, etc. Now, this is a study. We have to be careful
because many people love to misquote it. And you’ll hear people
make grand statements like: “Well, you know,
55% of all communication is non-verbal.” That’s not remotely accurate and it’s not
what the study was talking about, but what we can take from this study, and a lot of subsequent
research in the area is the importance of sounding credible. Now, I’d like you to think about this in the context of how you personally
prepare for some sort of presentation. Do you spend 38% of your time
working on the delivery? If you’re like most people, you probably spend the vast majority,
if not all of your time, working on the content: your outline,
your script, your PowerPoint slides, making sure you got cool graphics
and some snazzy animations, crunching your data
to put into your spreadsheets. But then, after all that work, we sort of wing the delivery
hoping it will be good enough. And in the end,
that’s just comparatively weak, and it can undermine
both your immediate goals and objectives, as well as your long-term
image and reputation. The fact is, if you want
to be seen as a leader, you have to sound like one. You have to demonstrate
vocal executive presence. Now, a part of vocal executive presence is the ability to read an audience
and identify the kind of person from whom they would be most open
to receiving your message, and then figure out
what that kind of person would sound like. Now, to an extent, we’re all born
with the voice that we have, but we do have a lot of control
over how we use it. Margaret Thatcher is
a great example thereof. She was the first woman
in British Parliament, and she was overtly mocked
by a lot of her opponents with phrases like: “Me thinks
the Lady does screech too much” because when she was passionate
in her arguing certain points, her voice would go higher
and become rather shrill. So when she decided
to run for Prime Minister, she worked with a tutor
from the National Theater who helped her to lower her pitch
in order to sound more authoritative. And this is really important because the voice has both cognitive
and emotional effects on the listener. Let’s start with the cognitive. We talked about tonality, that 38%,
the highs and the lows in your voice. And if we use this strategically, we can actually help the listener to focus on the most important words
and parts of the message which makes for a lighter processing mode and helps them understand and potentially
remember what we’re saying. And this can have a persuasive influence. When we listen to speech, we process it in what are called
tone units or chunks. And we start first by fixating
on the intonation pattern and anchoring what we listen to
to where those highest peaks are. And then, if necessary, we allow our imagination to fill in
whatever is in those lower sound valleys. An example of this is in song lyrics. We’ve all had this situation where we’ve been singing along
to our favorite song and suddenly, we realize that, or perhaps
somebody else not so gently points out, that we’ve been singing the words wrong. You’ve ever been there? A lot of nodding. There’s a classic song, “What a wonderful world”
by Louis Armstrong. I think everybody knows this one. And in it there’s a line that talks about: “the bright blessed day
and the dark sacred night.” But when I was a kid
I thought the line was: “the bright blessed day
and the dogs say good night.” (Laughter) Now, does this make any sense whatsoever? No, but I accepted it,
in part because, first and foremost, it matches those intonation patterns
and it also matches at those pitch peaks, the vowels, these syllables
that are up at the top. And then, in the parts
that were less salient, that were less emphasized,
in those pitch valleys, I let myself make up the rest. This also reflects why effective speakers,
when they’re speaking, will emphasize the most important words
with higher pitch. Now, tonality, if we use it strategically, can have a good influence
on our very first impressions in attempting to establish
ourselves as leaders from the moment we meet somebody. It’s really important, of course, to make a good, strong,
memorable first impression. But this is difficult
when a lot of people feel like they’re not even good at
remembering people’s names. You ever feel like that? Well, I’m going to absolve you
of about half of that blame. And that’s because when most people
introduce themselves to you, they pronounce their own names wrong. OK, well, technically maybe not wrong, but they pronounce them in a way that uses
a rhythm and an intonation pattern that does make it more difficult for you
to understand what they’re saying. And, by the way, I absolve you
of only half of that responsibility because the other half of the time you’re the one introducing yourself
to somebody else. So, if I want to know
that I’m introducing myself and helping the listener
to really understand my name, and by understanding, then they can hopefully remember it,
and thereby remember me, I want to start by letting my voice go up, up like this, on your first name,
as if to say, “I’m not finished yet,” and then at the top,
we’ll have a little break, that little pause that will allow for
a sound break to indicate word boundary, and then, at our last name,
we want to go down, let the pitch fall, as if to say, “And now I’m done,” like you’re putting
a little local period at the end. So instead of blurring your way
through your introduction, like, “Hi, my name is Laura Sicola,”
and bla-bla-blah, I want to focus and help
my listener to understand, and so I’ll do my best to say to them,
“Hi, my name is Laura Sicola.” And you’ll be amazed at the difference
this strategic tonality can make even in something this small. Now, of course, if we’re haphazard
in our use of intonation, and putting it in the wrong place, we can have the exact opposite effect. We can distract the listener’s attention
from what’s most important, and make it harder for them
to process what we’re saying. And one of the most common and,
in my opinion, annoying examples of this, that’s becoming more and more
prevalent in society nowadays, is a phenomenon called “up-speak,” otherwise known as up-talk
or, more technically, high-rise terminal. And that’s the pattern
where people are talking, and they keep adding
these question-like tones at the ends of all
of their phrases and sentences, “You know?”, like they’re implying a bunch of little “OKs” and “rights,” one after another, like there’s some sort
of deep-seated insecurity and pathological need
for constant validation? (Laughter) You know? The problem with talking like that
is that what ends up becoming emphasized is just whatever randomly falls
at the end of the phrase. It doesn’t help anyone
to process what you’re saying. And that monotonous lilting upswing
time and again can be rather hypnotic and so, after a while,
we don’t really know if the audience is listening to
anything we’re saying, much less what. By the way, I should also point out that this is not just
a “Valley Girl” kind of phenomenon, like a lot of people seem to attribute it. More and more nowadays,
this vocal crime against humanity is being perpetrated
by men and women, old and young, highly educated and lesser educated. So, congratulations guys,
you’ve closed the gender gap. Way to lead! (Laughter) So from there, one of the other issues is that when people,
of course, hear up-speak, they tend to have a very negative
and even visceral response. It’s not only the antithesis
of vocal authority. It’s almost like the vocal equivalent
of hair-twirling, you know? So, when people have
that visceral response, this will bring us to now talk about
the emotional effects of voice. Let’s start by thinking about some people
who have really distinct voices. We’ll start with James Earl Jones, perhaps best known
as the iconic voice of Darth Vader. Now, in my opinion, with that deep,
rich, bass voice that he has, he could read the ingredients
of the back of a bottle of shampoo and it would sound like poetry. But he probably
would not have been as successful if he had tried to play
the role of Elmo on Sesame Street. (Laughter) What about someone like Fran Drescher with that completely unmistakable, whiny,
nasal voice right out of Queens, NY? She was great on TV as The Nanny, but she probably would have been
less successful as Darth Vader. Can you imagine her standing over
Luke Skywalker saying, “Luke, I am your father!” (Laughter) It’s just so doesn’t work! Now that’s a great voice for comic relief, but it’s not necessarily
the voice you want to encounter when you’re looking
for a funeral director. It’s all about context. In the funeral context you’re looking for
someone who sounds sympathetic, who sounds compassionate,
who sounds like you can trust them to take care of you and your family during
your time of greatest emotional need. And the problem is that when we find someone
who has a voice that we find unpleasant or somehow seems
to lack the characteristics of the kind of person we’re looking for,
– doesn’t sound like that kind of person – we can tune them out. We can sort of shut down, and we don’t even want
to hear the rest of the message, no matter how important
the information is. Subconsciously, we really want
the messenger’s voice to fit the message. Now, does that mean that
vocal executive presence is about acting? No, on the contrary,
it’s the exact opposite. You have to be authentic.
You have to be yourself. But the key is to recognize which parts of your personality need
to shine through in a particular moment and how to transmit that
through your voice and speech style. Now, you’re listening to me here today in part because the way I am presenting
to you makes sense to you and will match your expectations for
what a TED talk speaker should sound like. But I can’t use this same speech style
when I’m talking to my 3-year old nephew. He’d wonder what happened to aunt Laura
because I don’t sound like fun any more, and he’d probably stop playing with me. But at the same time,
I can’t come here today and talk to you in the same way
that I talk to him. Can you imagine if I started by saying: “Everybody, I’ve got a great idea! Let’s talk about vocal
executive presence!” (Laughter) You’d be like, “Are you kidding me?
Who is this nut? What can she possibly know
about leadership or executive anything? And, for that matter, who invited her?” And by the way, it was them. (Laughter) I call it “working your prismatic voice.” In the end, I’m not acting. It’s just a matter of recognizing and being aware of the two audiences’
different needs and expectations. And then identifying
which parts of my personality I want to let come through and how, in order to ensure
your openness to my message. And with regard to the big notion,
the metaphor, the prismatic voice, in many ways, in the same way
white light would pass through a prism and break in all the colors of the rainbow
that make up that white light, when the white light of your personality passes through the prism
of some situational context, you need to look at all of the colors
that are available, all the different parts
of your personality, and decide which one you need
to highlight in the moment and how, in order to be most effective
and appropriate for that moment. And if you can figure out
how to do that successfully, then you can create your own, unique,
and authentic sound of leadership. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Want to sound like a leader? Start by saying your name right | Laura Sicola | TEDxPenn

  1. Great build up, with a close that left me wondering. Huh? Though it does seem that Laura does actually have something of value to share.

  2. For a Ted Talk on speaking, this lady is not that great an orator. Some of her words choices felt rather misplaced and awkward.

  3. I wanted to hear what she had to say, but i couldn't stand listening to her. Not a great public speaker, whichhl is ironic.

  4. The first woman to sit in the UK parliament was Nancy Astor, not Margaret Thatcher.

  5. For all her talk about delivery, she does a very poor job executing. That's what happens when you put style over substance


  7. Her mannerisms felt very contrived and too repetitive, which is ironic because, as much as whateve she was speaking on, her mannerisms caught my eye, to where that’s all I could do, is watch her hands and take note on how little her movents varied or broke their pattern.

  8. I think I'll do better at Ted talks
    Next topic : how to win an argument?
    Answer: stay calm
    The video will be 15 minutes tho

  9. (per Wikipedia), Constance Georgine Markievicz (Countess Markievicz) was the first woman elected to the British Parliament (Countess Markievicz, elected in 1918).

  10. give her a round of applause. and that person in the audience a cough drop, please.

  11. Margaret Thatcher was not the first woman in British parliament, the first woman in parliament to take her seat as an MP was Nancy Astor in 1919. Thatcher was the first female Prime Minister in Britain.

  12. The first MP was Constance Gore Booth…AKA Countess Markiewicz of Sinn Fein in 1918, but did not take her seat.
    We do ourselves no favours when we ignore the shameful bits of Irish History that everyone else knows…
    If we confront it, we can deal with it positively for everyone's benefit.
    Not least in negotiations post Brexit.

  13. I absolutely HATE up-speak! And it is so prevalent in american society… What is going on?

  14. shes so choppy and almost scared shes the wrong choice for a public speaker bad for the channel

  15. In the three main pillars of Executive Presence the first is "Appearance". This speaker, in my opinion, violates the first and most important of them all with what she is wearing. She may need to read or re-read "Dress for Success". Nothing about her "appearance" (well defined muscular bare arms) makes her look like an "Executive.

  16. Yeah I already know how to say my name right I don't understand why you would think I don't say it right you don't know me you've never met me and you don't know my name by the way it's Ted how many other ways can you say it ffs?

  17. So what if I have a middle name do I pronounce it in a pitch that's between my first name and my last name does it have to end up sounding like a musical chord?

  18. Dude. I swear, whenever I was a Ted talk with a female speaker the comments are almost always about their physical appearance, and critiquing and shortening their speeches. She has some very interesting points if only people would listen, and not obsess over her looks or that her talk is "too long"

  19. Leaders don't need others to know how to be a leader. Not everybody is a leader, not everybody needs to be one. To push yourself in a direction you're not made for – otherwise you'll make yourself and others suffer.

  20. This was a huge waste of time. I can only remember the story about her nephew, so I think she should work more on her tonality, but most importantly on the content!

  21. looks like she spends a lot of time in front of a mirror. Not much of a leader…more of a presenter…and actor. not the same.

  22. Someone give that lady in the audience a cough drop or ask her to step out!!!!

  23. There’s nothing wrong with deep-seated pathological insecurity. Right??

  24. I don't mean to be gender biased but tedx talk of women 99% are of no use and I lose the motivation after 2 mins but when simon sinek, michael vsauce,Dr.ken williams speak those r so magnetic…..

  25. Margaret Thatcher was not the first woman in British parliament, that was Nancy Astor in 1919; however, MT was the first British female prime minister.

  26. I have a stutter like my great aunt and I laugh for no reason (I’m psychotic). Leaders are born not made

  27. Anybody investing in this for an Abbey Road reference will leave disappointed.

  28. To sound cool, say your last name then then full name.
    Example: I'm Bond, James Bond.

  29. seems like a good concept, interesting information, it was hard to watch/listen to on 0.5x and 2x speed.

  30. up speak is a sign that the rein of narcissism is ending or at least loosening its grip. younger people don't have a pathological need for validation – they don't have a pathological need to dominate others or to pretend to be a know-t-all. as interesting as this talk is from a manipulative standpoint it is nonetheless ultimately just the sound of a dinosaur decaying. no coincidence she used Thatcher hiring a voice coach as an example of what to do.

  31. If you accept the name that your parents and society have given you, then you are a follower, not a leader.

  32. Too boring just get to the point. If you're speaking to a three-year-old sound fun and interesting. If you're speaking as an executive leader speak with a deeper voice more serious. Summed up

  33. Starting to think Ted is waste of time , all videos could sum up in 1 min to save time.

  34. How many jumped from this video to listen to Darth vaders voice

  35. That "up-speaking" drives me nuts!  I work in a professional environment where our director has both an MD and Ph.D.  He does this in meetings and I want to smack him upside the head because he sounds like an annoying 17 year old…

  36. she can speak to me authorititavely anyday; so long as she's prismatic about it, im kinky guy:)

  37. 12:00 Never said Luke. Great example of the mandela effect. Google it, its interesting.

  38. That title screwed me up.. "am i not saying my own NAME ..right?" lmao

  39. It never helps, they say it wrong back. PS Why did they steal the Frasier logo?

  40. Remember, YOU don't want to be a leader! Let others f— up first and ride their gravy train.

  41. Doesn´t work in every country/culture their are huge differences that influence these Studys.

  42. The greatest sound you ever hear is the sound of your name………………………………………pronounced correctly.

  43. Ya I already do this naturally… Good to know it's something that works though XD

  44. Most TED talks are useless..minimal worthwhile content. Speak with clarity and sincerity, that's all you need, all else is froth

  45. If you are going to cite research, Laura, could you please site the name of the study and tell us how we can get access to it. Having been a public relations practitioner in my early career, I know of this study. It is an older study that is cited in relation to what effectively communicates. My point is simply to include such information, rather than expect your audience to take research for granted. There is a lot of bad research out there, based on methodology, conclusions, funding, and so on. Let's give people a chance to review it themselves.

  46. Thanks Laura, very instructive and fun presentation. My key takeaways

    • Executive Presence: Appearance, Communication Skills, Gravitas
    • It’s about how we connect
    • Disconnect between WORDS or what is communicated and ACTIONS / EXECUTION / DELIVERY: Credibility
    • Judging about someone Feeling and Attitude is a lot about : Vocal Tonality (38%), Word Choice (7%) and Body Language (55%) – Posture, eye contact, voice tone…
    • Spend more time on the delivery and a bit less on the content
    • We all born with the voice that we have, and we are all free to control the way we use it
    • Voice has a cognitive and emotional effect on the listener
    • To introduce yourself play with the tone without distracting the listener
    • You need to help the listener to process what you are saying and most importantly to remind
    • Subconsciously we want the messenger voice to fit the message
    • You need to be honest and to understand what part of your personality need to shine through in a particular moment
    • Prismatic Voice: Recognize the audience needs and expectation, and adapt the messages and way to deliver them in order to be effective

    Thanks again
    David Daoud

  47. 3 archbishops, Brown, Jones, and Sicola. So Brown and Jones are promoted to cardinal, but not their friend. So he asks the pope why not? Pope says "When I'm gone, we could have a Pope Brown, a Pope Jones, but no Pope Sicola.

  48. WAnt to sound like a leader? Good. More leader sounding bums that what the world needs right

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