How to be heard through a mask.
Category: Communicating with others
I don’t normally find it hard to hear but I am finding it harder to hear people when they are wearing masks.
There are two issues really.
One, that the masks muffle the sound that you make and two, they hide the facial expressions (and lips) that we use as part of communication. Add to this the fact that you are standing further apart than you might have pre pandemic so the sound level is slightly lower by the time it reaches your ears!
I’m not the only one who is finding it hard to hear and it is certainly a concern a number of you have raised over the past few months as you start to go out more for meetings or are opening up you places of work, and want to make sure you are heard.
So, what can you do?
When presenting try to ensure that you are in a ventilated environment and at least 2 meters from the audience. Under current rules you can take your mask off to speak.
However, this isn’t always possible, particularly if you are in an office, smaller meeting room or working with the public in, for example, a shop. And all of us are likely to still be wearing masks when going out and about for some time to come.
So, these are my top five suggestions for helping others hear you more effectively.
- Smile – If you smile a REAL smile, your eyes will crease and smile too. The only way to have a genuine smile is to have a happy thought … think of something or someone who makes you happy and when you smile your eyes will smile too.
- Make more eye contact – Eye contact is important at the best of times and it is even more so when you are communicating in a mask. Make sure you have the other person’s attention. One way to do this is to make sure that your body is facing theirs and that you have caught their eye before you start to speak.
- Don’t forget to use your eyebrows – They convey a lot of your facial emotion … look at yourself in the mirror and compare your surprised face to your angry face. A little over emphasis will help the other person to “hear” what you are saying.
- Vocal variety – Just as a little more facial expression will help, so too will a little more variety in your voice. Your tone and pitch help to convey your message and exaggerating these a little will help to make your message clearer.
- Diction & clarity – You really do need to enunciate your words to be heard through a mask. Mumbling is hard to decipher under normal circumstances but impossible behind several layers of cloth. Warm up your mouth, tongue and lips before you go out by using some tongue twisters, slow down your pace of speech and pause more, giving the other person more time to assimilate what you are saying.
If you know that your voice needs work or you would like to sound clearer when you speak, have a look at the Partners With You Power of the Voice MP3 which covers all the key areas for communicating with ease, including pitch, clarity and projection.