Do you have a voice that commands attention when you present and helps gain buy-in? Here's how to power up your public speaking voice!
If you want to speak with power in speeches, presentations, and pitches, your voice needs to be part of the equation. Why would audiences take to heart even a strong message that comes from a weak-sounding messenger? Answer: they won't.
That's not to mention the boost to your career that comes from sounding like someone who means business!
Your voice should be helping not hurting your career! Find out how to make that happen in the Public Speaking Handbook, How to Give a Speech. Click on image below for more!
Below are three ways to power up your voice for public speaking. They come directly from a stage actor's training. As such, they are custom-made for creating a healthy and strong voice that can fill a performance space. Just as important, they will allow you to sound like you're reaching each listener directly and personally.
That's the power of a well-produced voice strutting its stuff in the arena of spoken performance.
Find Your Power in the Right Place
The initial power to create your voice doesn't start in your throat. In fact, it doesn't happen anywhere near your voice box. The properly created action does, however, activate the components of your voice box in the right way.
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Before the big reveal, a mini-lesson in vocal production: your voice is created when a column of exhaled air in your throat (along with nerve action) opens your vocal cords in the right sequence. They vibrate, creating a 'sound pressure wave.' The resulting vocal sound is then amplified by the resonators in your body, e.g., your throat, mouth, and nasal passages, and modified by your articulators (tongue, lips, and soft palate).
But it's the strength of that exhaled column of air that gives your voice power, since an "increase in air flow 'blows vocal folds wider apart, which stay apart longer during a vibratory cycle – thus increasing amplitude of the sound pressure wave."1 Therefore, a powerful voice starts with diaphragmatic breathing. You need a full reservoir of air to create a strong enough air flow as you exhale. The wrong way to make your voice louder is by tightening your vocal folds and forcing the sound out. This irritates your throat and makes your voice harsh.
You also need to know what you shouldn't be doing in terms of a good voice. Do You Speak Like This? (It Can Hurt Your Credibility). Download via that link and find out now!
Create the Correct-Sized Bubble of Influence
Let's assume you follow this advice and practice healthy diaphragmatic breathing. That's to your benefit. Now, let's help your listeners.
You want to produce a voice that reaches people with both power and intimacy (think of the actor "filling the house"). To do that, you need to modulate your projection so it matches your performance space as precisely as possible. After all, you'll be speaking in everything from small conference rooms to hotel ballrooms to cyberspace. (We'll leave out the amplification of microphones and other electronically-produced voices.)
How do you create the right level of vocal volume for each space? Think in terms of energy rather than volume, and use this visualization: Deploy your voice so it fills an invisible bubble that extends from you to the person farthest away from you. Everyone within that bubble needs to be caressed by your voice, i.e., it should reach them personally. Think in those terms and you'll be focused on having a conversation with each person, not just throwing data their way.
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Learn How to 'Point' Your Sound
You can see how we're moving from physiology to a practical, performance-based approach to a powerful public speaking voice. Here's a last point to proceed along those lines. In fact, that word 'point' is exactly the right one.
To help you in terms of creating the right-sized vocal sound (per the section above), you can practice pointing or placing your voice. You'll do this by using everyday objects around you.
Ready? Wherever you are right now, pick out an object that's around eighteen inches away. Now say something to it, 'pointing' your voice so that it hits that object as the target. Say the same thing, this time aiming at something that's six feet away. Increase the distance to an object eighteen feet away. The distances don't need to be precise. The idea is, you're getting practice making your voice "work" at the right distance to connect with whoever is listening to you. (With greater distance, you'll find yourself taking deeper breaths, and slightly increasing the duration of the sound.)
Placing your voice like this allows audiences to feel that you're connecting with them on an intimate level, and vice versa. For you, that's empowering!
1 "Understanding How Voice Is Produced." https://voicefoundation.org/health-science/voice-disorders/anatomy-physiology-of-voice-production/understanding-voice-production/
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Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in public speaking and overcoming speaking fear. His company, The Genard Method offers live 1:1 Zoom executive coaching and corporate group training worldwide. In 2022 for the ninth consecutive year, Gary has been ranked by Global Gurus as One of the World’s Top 30 Communication Professionals. He is the author of the Amazon Best-Seller How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speaking, was named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." His handbook for presenting in videoconferences, Speaking Virtually offers strategies and tools for developing virtual presence in online meetings. His latest book is Speak for Leadership: An Executive Speech Coach's Secrets for Developing Leadership Presence. Contact Gary here.
Main photo: Artur Voznenko on Unsplash.