about the book
Full Voice: The Art and Practice of Vocal Presence
foreword by Peter Block
Offers a clear, tested, fun process for accessing the full range, color, and power of your voice.
Identifies five distinct vocal colors within the human voice and demonstrates how to put them to work in your life.
Accompanying free online practice videos demonstrate concepts and invite readers to practice out loud
Your voice says a lot about you. Based on the tone and expression of your voice alone, your listeners may make up their minds about you before they even process the meaning of your words. And if what you say is at odds with how you say it, they can miss your message altogether. As important as our voices are, few of us know how to use them to their full potential.
Full Voice offers a fun, tested method to harness the power of your voice to become a more effective and flexible communicator. Barbara McAfee identifies five distinct vocal tones or qualities—Earth, Fire, Water, Metal, and Air—and explains how to cultivate each voice. You'll also discover how to use your voice to convey authority, passion, compassion, and other essential leadership qualities – and how to choose the right voice to get your message and meaning understood. With online practice videos and real life stories to reinforce the message, you’ll experience an authentic shift in the impact your voice has on your colleagues, friends and family.
McAfee’s approach offers much more than a minor cosmetic improvement. It enables you to use your voice to support your intentions and aspirations, to express who you truly are, and bring your gifts to the world. As you become more aware of your own voice, you also become a better listener, more attuned to what people are saying underneath their words. You learn to transform the ordinary act of every day speech— the presentations you give, the meetings you lead, the stories you read your children at bedtime, even your casual conversations with friends— into works of art. You’ll discover how opening your full voice opens you to untapped potential, power, and aliveness as well.
In Full Voice Barbara McAfee introduces leaders to the powerful idea of vocal presence, reminding us that how we speak and how we listen really does matter. Barbara offers us a framework and practice guide for how to find our voice and express our ideas more clearly.
Nick Nissley, Ed.D.
Dean, Business Technologies
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College
I’ve worked side-by-side with Barbara for many years and witnessed the brilliance of her talents--her strong, soaring voice that she so skillfully uses to encourage others to find their voices. I’m so grateful she’s written this book, so that many more people may discover the gift of giving voice.
Margaret Wheatley, Ed.D., author
Leadership and the New Science, Perseverance, and So Far From Home
Full Voice: The Art and Practice of Vocal Presence is practical and inspirational guide in how we can more fully bring our voice into the world. Barbara McAfee offers tangible ways in which we can strengthen and express our authentic voice.
Angeles Arrien, Ph.D.
Author and editor of Working Together
Every life is a journey into song. To find it, however, has often been a mystery that has involved a long, uncertain journey through a dark forest with no clear path to follow.
Until now. Full Voice is a magnificent guide that illuminates this path and makes this eternal dream possible. It help us appreciate that the vulnerability of our voice is also the source of our greatest power, courage and strength.
Every voice is needed now. The world cannot evolve without it. Each of us has a 'song' to sing. Without it, the world will be incomplete.
Pianist, composer, leadership educator
author of Artful Leadership and The Soul of Place
I came to Barbara McAfee wanting to learn 'a song for every occasion.' I got that and so much more. Using the simple practices she offers in Full Voice, Barbara taught me how to fill a large hall with my voice, how to hear a chorus of voices and my own at the same time, and how to truly lift off and soar to the heavens. The Tibetans speak of body, mind, and voice, rather than body, mind, and spirit. This book offers wise guidance for opening our voices — and spirits — to their full expression.
founder, Utne Reader
I found Full Voice: The Art and Practice of Vocal Presence such a delight to read! I never anticipated learning about vocal presence could speak to me on so many levels. The metaphors and examples helped me visualize and connect to the message. And Barbara's intimate writing voice makes it seem as though she is sitting right beside me, talking with me.
President, Larkspur Group
Talent Management Consultants
Barbara's words are wise and wonderful; the tools are practical and playful. If, indeed, "voice is the muscle of the soul", Barbara offers a most pleasurable Olympic training opportunity. What a gift!
Jayne Felgen, MPA, RN
President Emerita, Creative Health Care Management
Author of I2E2 , Leading Lasting Change
Barbara McAfee has written a book on voice that is more a book on the art of living, through the voice. All true works of prose point back to the essential truths about ourselves--to be true to ourselves, to express who we are in the world completely, and to communicate fully with others whether we are a public speaker, musician, parent, friend, or therapist. I highly recommend this scholarly and intimate book on the art of voice.
Joseph Bailey, author and psychologist
Author of Slowing Down to the Speed of Life
Q & A
Why did you write this book?
I didn’t have my own voice for many years. The process of recovering my own “full voice” led me naturally into coaching other people in finding theirs. For the past twenty years, I’ve witnessed people from all walks of life – executives, physicians, trainers, consultants, coaches, nurses, ministers, speakers, parents, community leaders, writers – harness the power of their voices to their purpose. They not only learned to use their voices more effectively in how they communicate, they accessed aspects of themselves they’d left behind. We discovered that opening up your full voice leads to a fuller life.
Why is voice important?
Most of us engage in many conversations during the course of a day: with family members, colleagues, clients, customers, and community members. These conversations are the raw material for creating anything, because the voice is the only way something can travel from your imagination into the outside world.
The sound of your voice has a profound impact on your listeners. Before they can even process the meaning of your words, they are accessing all kinds of information about you based on your voice – things like your age, gender, physical size, class background, ethnicity, education level, and emotional state.
And if the way your voice sounds is incongruent with your message, the listener will be too distracted and confused to really hear what you have to say. Learning to use your voice with skill is essential, considering how many important conversations you engage in every day.
Can a book about voice help people really change the way they sound?
When the invitation came to write this book for Berrett-Koehler, I had the very same question. I’m used to working with people in my coaching studio, in workshops, or at conferences. Translating this very physical, multidimensional experience into words on a page became the central challenge of the book. My reviewers and editors all tell me I succeeded in doing so. I include a variety of exercises in the book and offer free online practice videos to support readers in practicing their new sounds. The videos guide you through a warm-up just as if you were in my teaching studio.
What makes this approach unique?
My background is a strange hybrid of singing, business consulting, speaking, personal development, and voice coaching. My approach to voice blends all of them. Many vocal methods are organized around narrowing the voice to one perfect, ideal sound. Full Voice does just the opposite; we open up the full range, color, and sound in the voice – even those sounds that you’d never use in daily life.
I use the Five Element Framework to demonstrate five distinct sounds available in everyone’s voice. Each sound is linked to specific gifts – like authority, passion, compassion, clarity, and inspiration. For instance, if you need to project authority, you’ll be able to access the earth sound in your voice. If you need to extend compassion to someone, your water voice will make your words sound more compassionate.
Opening up the range and color of your voice impacts other aspects of your life. Your identity – who you say you are – expands to include a broader range of humanity. You reconnect with parts of yourself you may have left behind.
How long does this take?
Most people who practice the Five Element Framework exercises start noticing subtle changes in the way they speak and listen almost immediately. Even so, entrenched vocal habits take time and practice to outgrow. The reasons for those habits can run deep. Changing your voice often entails expanding your self-concept, reconnecting to your body, deepening your breathing, or stepping into unfamiliar territory. I hope this book offers you the tools, practices, and encouragement to embark on a lifelong curiosity about voices – yours and everyone else’s.
Who benefits from the work?
Well, that’s easy: anyone who talks.