A voice that is easy to listen to makes a talk so much more enjoyable, but it may not be obvious how to achieve that.
Surely we just speak the way we speak? Not so — there are simple techniques that can help enhance how you speak and increase your impact.
If your voice is not good, it can lead to a host of problems as a speaker. Being asked to repeat or speak up can be embarrassing. A weak voice can adversely affect your credibility, while a good strong voice can boost it.
So here are six ways to increase the impact of what you are saying.
Projecting your voice
Give it enough volume to suit the room size. Project your voice to the back of the room and you will soon gauge what is right. You need to be just loud enough that the audience are comfortably hearing you.
It is easy to become lazy and run one word into the next. Do not rush your words. In a quickly spoken phrase, people can often miss parts of what you have said.
Lack of clarity often is caused by failing to sound the beginning and endings of words properly, for example, saying “next Tuesday” as “nexchoosdy”. If you now say “next Tuesday” but really make sure you sound the “t” of “next” and the “t” of Tuesday, you can feel your tongue on the roof of your mouth. You will create a slight gap between the words and they will be clearer. Pronounce beginnings and endings of words for greater clarity.
Let your voice rise and fall
We have all heard how boring a monotone voice can be. Vary the intonation by letting your voice rise and fall. When you speak with passion, the intonation will start to vary naturally.
Emphasising key words
Emphasis on a word makes your meaning clearer. Changing emphasis will change the meaning. Take, for example, the sentence: “It is vital that we support Derek on this very important project.” If you emphasise the word “vital,” it will have a certain effect, while if you stress the phrase “very important project,” it will have another. When making presentations, go through your notes and highlight words and phrases to emphasise.
Avoid raising your voice at the end of sentences
This can diminish your authority. In fact, a high-pitched voice that also goes up at the end of a sentence can make the speaker sound nervous and even childish. Dropping the voice at the sentence’s end adds credibility. However, overdoing this can make you sound confrontational. Reserve it for serious points.
Shallow breaths will not help project your voice and can lead to nervousness. Instead, breathe all the way down to your stomach, which is known as diaphragm breathing. Feel how your stomach moves out as you breathe in. This keeps airways clear and increases resonance. Resonance is the deep and strong quality of a reverberating voice.
We may not all possess a naturally authoritative tone — but we can all work towards one.
Graham Shaw is author of The Speaker’s Coach: 60 secrets to make your talk, speech or presentation amazing.