Crafting a voice

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Did I ever tell you why I started my podcast Out of the Clouds? It’s strange, not many people asked me, when it first launched. Perhaps because of the proliferation of the medium or because I listen to so many podcasts myself (as you regular readers of the digest may have picked up on), my semi-obsession is very much in evidence. Like, duh, of course you want to have a podcast!

From the very beginning, I chose to try this for myself because I believed my vantage point was an interesting one, being at the crossroads between business and mindfulness. I consult, I work, and I teach (that part mainly in the evenings and during weekends). Sometimes I say ‘standing’ between the two, but really I should rephrase.

What I am doing is indeed working at the crossroads between business and mindfulness.

But after nearly two years of podcasting experience (and what years they have been), I’ve come to realise that there were underlying benefits I hadn’t considered, including one particularly self-serving one. Which is how much I get to learn from each of my guests.

It’s true! I’m not just saying that.

You see, I like to do my due diligence. I prepare carefully, do my research, even when interviewing friends, or on the couple of occasions when I have interviewed clients of AVM Consulting. I do try to come up with the most interesting questions for my guest, my audience, but also - actually - for myself!

The skillset required happens to be pretty similar to coaching (and teaching). A prerequisite is a presence, followed by deep listening (and by that I mean not interrupting, or curbing the tendency we all have, to do that in conversation).

I was truly surprised when I realised how much the words and the energy of each of my interviews have reverberated for me, echoed with each listen. But I started to quote my guests, in conversation, in writing. I’d find myself saying: ‘Oh someone said this super interesting thing to me the other day, what was it?’ Huh, it was from the podcast!

One recent example came up in the interview I had with Manfreda Cavazza, journalist and writer, who copy edits this newsletter and blog I post weekly for AVM Consulting. Among many topics, we discussed tone of voice, which as a singer, podcaster, and communications person, is something I’ve grown increasingly fond of exploring.

Days after the editing of the episode was complete, the conversation stayed with me. I mean... do you ever think your voice? Your tone? (apart, perhaps, in the middle of an argument?)

The questions are simple, and yet I don’t think we ask ourselves about this often (enough).

Do we ever re-read ourselves to consider our tone?

Is our tone consistent across the board?

Is tone connected to our intention (and by the way, do we even know what our intention is, when we communicate)?

And is it adapted to the various forms of media we are communicating on?

It so happens that I was myself interviewed by Dr Andrea Wojnicki, communications coach and chief talker at Talk about Talk and Andrea wanted to discuss style and personal brand. Right from the beginning of the conversation, I saw parallels between how we get dressed, how we style ourselves and how we speak, write or connect.

We don’t need to be blah about it. We can choose to be intentional about our style. Beyond dressing.

Considering this, I reflected that perhaps that’s why I am relatively formal in my emails (not French formal, that’s another level I’m not into). I don’t enjoy the back and forth without some sense of politeness, because suddenly, the tone becomes… short. Or unclear, you could even say, hard to read? It’s certainly quicker to write and to the point but for me, it’s lacking something important. It doesn't sound like me.

I am a warm person (most of the time!), whether IRL or over the phone, so I think unknowingly for years, I was looking to have that come through in my written communication. (by the way, this is not true across Slack and Whatsapp though).

Coming back to crafting, a word I think gives texture to the artful possibilities in our communication, here’s what Manfreda said about working on tone of voice when writing brand copy:

“It’s creating this voice, this sense of who you are in a way that is repeated again and again and again.

And it’s that repetition, that consistency, that makes people understand who you are and what you stand for.

And also how they get to know you as a brand, because you’re saying the same things in the same way, again and again, so it's not just the words that you use necessarily, but it's how you use them.”

That’s all great. But at the time of our conversation, I suddenly felt like I was often too forgetful about this work myself. Which made me laugh. It’s almost like I was asking her to talk about this to pull my attention towards the topic, pushing myself to work on this some more…

Then my mind lit up. Isn't that what great conversations do?

This brought up the following image:

tone of voice is like a bridge, a conduit that makes it easier to relate across mediums. It’s the space where a brand can meet audience needs; a juncture point.

Brands have a lot of desires and things they want to express; audiences and clients have got their own thing going on. And tone of voice can be the bridge that helps the right brand find the right client.

There it was: this reminded me of something that another of my wonderful guests, the dashing Cameron Silver, said about the opportunity for independent brands and their storytelling, which also resonated strongly with me:

“At the end of the day, the product has to be good, but you've got to be able to communicate that product to the customer. Be vulnerable, which is something that I have learned.

Vulnerability is super powerful. Now I sound like Brené Brown and her podcast.

And I always say vulnerability is not about crying on cue, but tell me a little story.

Let me get to know you a little better.

Let me love you.

We all want to fall in love a little bit with a designer, and we all want to be the one to discover, this is my new best friend, look at this brand.

Celebrate that!”

Listening back to both Cameron and Manfreda, and recounting it with you here, my own company’s mission is clear (it does include that big piece about storytelling after all) but then there’s more.

As a podcaster (and when I write here) with every episode, email or blog post.. I hope that you fall in love a little bit.

Fall in love with my tone, with my guest, with the show/content in general. You can be sure that I will keep on crafting that voice that you’ll come to listen to or read, hopefully again, and again.

Most importantly, what I hope comes through in the tone of my interviews or these posts, is how much I care about this work, about my guests and about you who are reading or listening.

So I invite you to consider your words, your tone, and to work on your voice.

And think about how tone can be the bridge between your deep aspirations and those you seek to connect to.

Until next week.