Use Your Voice

If you want more of a career and less of a job, one thing you will have to do is learn to use your voice. I mean this on multiple levels, so let’s talk about it.

Volume, Tone & All That Stuff

When I say “learn to use your voice,” one of the things I mean is that you will need to spend some time learning how to literally, physically, speak. It takes some practice to understand how to increase your volume so people can hear it you without actually shouting. If you have to speak for an hour or more, controlling tone and volume does take time to learn. I know people who can’t talk long without hurting their vocal cords. If you’re one of those people, track down a vocal coach. Talk to your doctor. Then, practice.

One of the best ways to practice for this is to present to yourself. Yeah, volume isn’t going to be an issue, and you probably shouldn’t try too much volume at the start. However, talk for an hour, at a normal speaking voice. Not in your head, or whispering, but actually as if you were talking to someone that’s across the room from you. You don’t need to yell, but you do need to speak at volume in order to be heard.

This also lets you practice one of the very important skills in presenting, breathing. Yeah, sounds messed up, but when people get excited they tend to speak faster & more and forget that, yeah, in order to keep speaking, you will have to take a breath. Again, best way to learn this is practice. You may hear me say practice a lot. That’s because, like with any other skill, you need to practice.

Your Voice

Another aspect of “use your voice” that I want to mention is finding your own way of speaking. I mean sure, you have your own way of speaking, sure. But I mean finding the delivery that makes you the most comfortable. I can’t help myself, in most situations, when speaking, I’ll crack a joke or three. It’s part of what makes me comfortable. Yeah, I don’t do it to entertain others, although that’s there too. I mainly do it because it makes me a bit more comfortable to be able to say something goofy & smile or laugh. However, I know lots of people who almost never joke while presenting. That’s fine too.

Your mechanisms of speaking will be yours. And you may find that the way you present is not the way you talk. Once more, experimentation and practice (there’s that word again) are key. You have to understand yourself just a bit to find your way to your voice.

Another aspect of finding your voice is understanding what it is that you want to present. I mean, this is a technical blog and most readers are either technical themselves or are tech adjacent. A natural answer then is something technical. OK, but what exactly? At what level? Me, I prefer doing 100-200 level sessions. I’ll give 300 level content, but not as often. I don’t bother with 400 & 500. Why? First off, I like helping people and more help is needed at the start, so that’s where I like to focus. Further, I’m just not smart enough to keep 500 level stuff in my brain long enough to do a presentation on it. Can I get near 500 level stuff while writing? Yeah, but then there’s plenty of time and I can always read back through what I wrote to be sure things are clear. Teaching it? Presenting at that level? No. You’ll figure out what you can do through, ready for it, practice.

Sell It!

Another part of “user your voice” is the idea that you’re selling stuff. I know, you’re not. However, often, you actually are. You have a new way of storing data that’s going to help the organization you work for. Now you have to sell it. Same thing goes with all sorts of knowledge transfers. It’s not just presenting the information, but presenting it in a way that people will embrace it. That means selling it.

So, you’ll have to structure how you use your voice too. You’ll need to think through what will convince others. You’re going to get this wrong sometimes. It’s OK. Take it as practice. But one mechanism that will help, especially when talking to individuals or small groups, is to focus on their communication style. Are they more ask or more tell kind of people? Then use their approach. If they’re ask, ask questions & pose them directly to the individuals. Are they more task or people oriented? Again, change your style to match them.

You’ll also have to think about the concepts of story telling. It’s part of selling stuff too. A beginning, problem space. A middle, solutions. And an end, proof of the solutions. Once again, practice here is key.

Why Use Your Voice

All this sounds like a lot of work. Can’t I just go through my career without doing this stuff?


I differentiate career from job in one simple way. A job you show up for, do & leave. You’re not striving or reaching or attempting for more, whatever more looks like to you. More leadership technically? Technical skills? More business leadership? I don’t know what more looks like to you, but when you’re trying to do and be more, you’re working on a career. When you’re basking in the fact that you graduated university 10 years ago and you now know all you need to know and someone will eventually recognize your work and you’ll move in to management, you’ve got a job. For now.

Making a career means making a difference. To do that, you have to engage with others. That means, learning to use your voice.

Where To Use Your Voice

First, practice at home. Maybe not in the office.

OK. Where else? Local meetups. User groups. Toast Masters. Any of these places want, NEED, speakers and presenters.

Fine. Where else? The office. Organize lunch and learns. Ask the boss if you can talk on a topic at the next team meeting. Volunteer to deliver the next report to management. Wherever you can.

Any place else? Yeah, maybe, and I mean maybe, consider submitting to events. DataSaturdays, SQLSaturday, PGDay, all smaller, more regional events that frequently take on new speakers. Why maybe? Mainly just that while these are opportunities to do everything I’ve been talking about through this post, they are a bit more high stress. It might not be for everyone. Plus, the chances of getting rejected can be high and that’s no fun. So I’m just a little cautious about having you run down this path, but it is an option.

That it? There’s also your local school, town board, church, clubs, what have you. Many of these places bring in outside speakers for different things. Volunteer.


The single most important thing I want to say here is that you, and your voice, are unique. Oh, maybe not wildly so. Not everyone is Buck Woody. However, you are unique. Your voice is unique. If you want to grow your career, then find that voice, practice it, and use it. This is especially important if you’re reading this and you’re a younger person (and by that I mean under say, 45, not 16, although this applies to them too). The data community leans quite a bit older outside of analytics (and even there). We need fresh, new, younger, voices. Yours. Please, use your voice.

2 thoughts on “Use Your Voice

  • Karl Kieninger

    My wife is a functional voice and speech coach. Her business is in large part helping people find, polish, and become comfortable with their voice. I’ve been to enough SQL talks to know that there are definitely some people in the community that can both use and afford that sort of coaching. She works effectively in person, virtual, or hybrid. I checked with Grant before posting the comment and link.


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