“You’re hoarse. Sounds like you may be coming down with a cold. Do we need to reschedule our interview?” This question has come to me repeatedly in the past 7 years when I was practicing with a cello for beginners, and from media people, teleseminar hosts, and clients. Familiar with my throat condition and earlier diagnosis, I reassure them, sip a little hot tea, and explain that I’ll be fine once we start the interview.
How do I know I’ll be fine? Three reasons. But more about that in a moment.
Do you frequently get either requests or commands like these?
––“Can you talk a little louder please?”
––“It’s difficult to hear you. You’re awfully soft spoken. Would you mind talking louder?”
––“Louder please! We can’t hear in the back.”
If these comments sound familiar, then you’ve also probably been frustrated when you’ve felt as though you were yelling and people continued to complain, “We still can’t hear you!” I recognize that same frustrated expression on the face of presenters in our presentation skills workshops when they’re asked to speak louder and already think they’re at peak volume.
They raise their voice even louder. And although the audience may eventually hear them, the presenter’s voice has not become stronger, richer, or more powerful. Only louder. Big difference. Here are 3 quick tips to develop a strong speaking voice.
Speaking is a physical skill as well as a mental one. To have a stronger sound, your whole body needs to act as a resonant sound chamber. Say “Hmmmmmm” aloud and feel the front of your face vibrate. Now, keep that vibration going and add a complete sentence after it: “Hmmmmm. I enjoy speaking to such a large group—particularly when they are so complimentary!” Can you feel the sound in the front of your face? This is called mask resonance. To keep this strong sound coming, you’ll need to stay aware of what it feels like and practice. Stand up straight and tall, place your weight comfortably on both feet, and create a strong resonance chamber for your voice.
Shallow breathing results in a weak voice. That’s often why someone sitting at a desk slumped over a computer keyboard sounds tired, timid, or distracted. Their air flow to the lungs is limited because of their slumped posture. You can’t speak up if you’re slumped down. The air passageway has to be open all the way to the bottom of your lungs. The air behind your voice gives it a rich, full sound. Good posture enables proper breathing.
Finally, passion adds energy to your voice. It’s difficult to talk about hand lotion with the same intensity that you’d tell someone you just won the lottery. An excitement about your subject produces a different cadence in your voice, animation in your face, gestures to emphasize your points, and movement that demonstrates overall excitement about sharing what you know with the people around you. Automatically, that passion infuses your voice with a full, clear, strong sound.
Back to my opening scenario with a reporter, client, or teleseminar host on the phone: When I first answer, I’m typically opening the call in a casual manner—relaxed posture, unfocused energy, distracted attention. So my hoarseness often shows up during the preliminary chit-chat. But once in “performing” mode, the big three drivers take over to transform my voice. Like magic, the clear, full, strong voice reappears.