In the previous post on professional speaking, we focused on managing nervousness. This post will look at how to project your voice and speak clearly.
Projecting your voice
Whether you're speaking to an auditorium full of people or a small group of colleagues in a meeting room, the audience needs to hear and understand what you're saying. This is called effective voice projection, which is the result of doing a number of techniques simultaneously. Let's discuss each one of these techniques.
Head high, shoulders back, face the audience
By keeping your back straight and head up, you allow more air to enter your lungs, enabling you to speak louder. Avoid turning your back to the audience, as this reduces your ability to be heard.
Speak with your diaphragm, not your throat
There is nothing worse than losing your voice, halfway through a performance. To avoid vocal strain, speak from the belly, not the throat. This means using your body cavity to amplify your voice, instead of your vocal chords. Professional speakers do this by expanding their diaphragms.
How to speak with your diaphragm
1. Place your hand on your stomach, just below the sternum, and push your belly outwards. Keep your hand here for the rest of the exercise.
2. Breathe in deeply, making sure to fill the space opened up by the moving of your diaphragm.
3. Say 'Ahh' three times. You should feel your hand vibrate.
4. Say some longer sentences. It should feel as though you are pushing the words out from your belly and that your voice is a bit deeper than usual.
Here's a useful video on projecting your voice, if you need more help.
Enunciation means pronouncing each consonant and vowel clearly (i.e., not mumbling). Speaking clearly helps the audience better understand your message. One way actors practice enunciation is by reading their lines in an over-exaggerated manner and then re-reading them as normal. Try practicing this strategy with the following:
As with any skill, doing it well takes practice. Try warming up before your next lesson or take a few minutes in the morning to warm up your voice in English. If you only do this once before your big performance, presentation or test, then you won't be reaching your full potential.
If you haven't seen last week's post about appearing confident, read it now.
Join us next week for the final part of this series: how to hold the audience's attention.
diaphragm — the muscle below your stomach which pulls your lungs open.
mumble — to speak unclearly.