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An edited and revised book on public speaking for introverts based on the articles from this site

Your Performance : Using Your Voice

You use your voice to speak, and the heart of your presentation comes from what you say.  So your voice is very important.

It isn’t all about projecting your voice – these days microphones mean that vocal projection isn’t as important as it used to be – but projection is still a skill which is worth exploring, as knowing how to project your voice gives you lots of opportunities to alter how you use your voice – and to make your presentation more memorable.

The way to project your voice is like this:

1. Stand up straight.

2. Feel yourself breathing.  Try to breath from deep down, blow your chest.  Imagine the air is coming in and out of your belly button.  Breath slowly and feel the breath.  Feel your stomach rising as you breath in and falling as you breath out.

3. Smile.  This raised your cheekbones, which gives the inside of your mouth more volume, and lets your voice echo inside – we all know we sound better singing in the bathroom – the echo adds a tonality to your voice which makes it sound richer.

4. Look at people at the back of the audience, your voice is going to have to carry to them, so make sure you are connecting with them

5. Wait until you have breathed all the way in, and your stomach has risen, then begin talking.  When you talk, imagine your voice is coming from inside your stomach.

6. Speak clearly.  Annunciate every syllable of every word.

This doesn’t take much practice.  Follow these instructions and your voice will carry better the next time you speak.

Now people can hear your voice, lets look at the things you can do to make it sound better.  First, lets consider speed.  Many people speak too fast.  Much like the use of the body, speaking quickly is something you have to notice if you’re guilty of, then slow down.  As a tip for most speakers:  if it sounds like you are speaking too slowly, you’re probably speaking at the right speed.  Slow, careful diction sounds considered and will thought out, whereas the fast ramblings – even of the genius mind – sound distant and confusing.  As you have more practice speaking, try varying to speed at which you speak.  I go faster when I want something to sound complicated and technical –  or when I want to sound very excited, and slower when I really want to ram. a. point. home.

Now you need to consider the tonality of your voice.  There is nothing more boring than listening to someone speaking to an audience in a monotone (well, actually there is: someone reading there speech to an audience in a monoton). The monotone makes whatever you say lack humanity and emotion.  To avoid this, really try to emote when you are speaking.  If you are happy smile, if you are discussing something sad, scowl – your voice will carry the emotions with you.  As with your body, don’t be afraid to overact.

You can also adapt your volume.  If you are following the advice I gave earlier on projection, it is quite possible to speak quietly and still be heard at the back of the room.  You can use this to share secrets (its the old stage whisper), to show humility or fear.  Speaking loudly adds confidence, and switching from quiet to loud can scare the audience – making them jump and take note of what you’re saying.  Its a trick countless head teachers have used in school assemblies (and of course, along with stand up comics, teachers are some of the most practiced public speakers you will come across)

The are to sounding good when you speak is mixing up all of the techniques above, matching them with the things you have to say.  You can plan this in advance, but also, you can do it on the spot, taking in what you feel from the audiences reaction.  If you both feel what your audience feel, and you also feel the meaning of the words, and then you bring this feeling out when you speak, you’ll have created a sound people want to pay attention to.