Do you want your voice to be heard?
I hope so. You have something to say. You have something to contribute to the world. The world is not made a better place by your silence. It’s made better by you speaking up, and contributing to the fabric of life.
The world needs you to be part of the conversation.
Your voice is your most important tool in public speaking. Some people have wonderful voices. Their voices may be naturally deep, or they have beautiful resonance.
Maybe they’ve been a singer or performer and been training their voice for years.
If this isn’t you – don’t panic!
I don’t like my voice!
Guess what? Many people don’t. When we first hear ourselves in a recording, we often say, ‘Do I really sound like that?’ The answer is – yes – but you probably sound fine. You’re just unused to hearing your voice. If you listened to twenty hours of yourself reading aloud from a book, you wouldn’t think twice about your voice.
So I’m afraid I have to give you some tough love.
No matter how much you may dislike the sound of your voice – get used to it. It’s your voice. Learn to love it.
Now, having said that, your voice is your primary tool involved in public speaking, so why not make it as powerful as you can?
Your voice can be enhanced, but it’s up to you to do it.
What is voice?
The anatomy around the human voice is quite complex, but the basics of it are relatively simple. Three main sections of your body are involved – your lungs, larynx and mouth. All three work together to produce voice.
Voice begins with breathing. As we inhale air, the horizontal muscle below the lungs (the diaphragm) lowers. This fills our lungs with air. To produce voice, we push air up from our lungs, and through our voice box (the larynx). The vibration of the vocal chords produces sound.
As you can imagine, the shapes of our lips, tongue, jaw and throat have a profound effect on what we produce. So do our lungs. So where do we start?
The abdominal muscles
First we need to activate our abdominal muscles to project more air.
This is where the snake comes into it.
We practice our ‘sss’ sounds. To do this, imagine you’re a snake. What sound does a snake make? ‘ssssss’.
Follow this simple exercise:
breath in through your nose
place you hand on your stomach
make a long, extended ‘ssss‘ sound like a snake
let it out all the way until there’s no more air in your lungs
notice how your abdominal muscles strengthen when you make the sound
You need to activate these same abdominal muscles when you're speaking in public. Activating these muscles adds power to your voice.
Do your ‘ssss’ exercise prior to practicing your speeches, and focus on those abdominals while you speak.
Projecting your voice is a three step process.
Think of the part of the room where you want your voice to reach (yes, to hit a target you must first identify it). Focus on that part of the room. It might be the back wall. It might be a row of chairs. It might be a person.
Breath in deeply through your nose, and deeply down into your lungs
Keep your abdominals activated as you speak
If you have problems with this, a good way to think about it is to imagine yourself as a famous actor. You probably did this as a kid. Have some fun with it and pretend you’re an actor on the stage.
To be or not to be…!
Notice how your voice is stronger and more resonant?
Throat and mouth
Let’s look at your mouth and throat. First your throat.
Dip your head to your chest and speak. Now raise your head and speak.
See the difference? Dipping your head cuts off your airway and reduces airflow. When you speak in public, raise your head slightly to allow a clear passage of air through your throat.
Now let’s look at your mouth. Imagine yourself smelling a beautiful rose. Notice how the back of your mouth opens up? That’s how you want your mouth to be when you’re speaking.
So, in summary, we want:
a nice, open mouth
head slightly raised to allow air to flow unrestricted through your throat
activated abdominals to help project your voice
Take the next step
Don’t let yourself down as a speaker. Give some attention to your voice. It’s your most valuable asset.
Do some work on your voice and make yourself heard. The world needs to hear what you’ve got to say.
Open your mouth – and project!