The voice of experience

When used correctly the voice can be a powerful tool in most situations

Some simple, practical techniques can help you make the most of your voice and get your point across with greater clarity and conviction. As tension can inhibit the voice’s power, the best starting point is a relaxed physical state. To reduce tension, try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, making the out breath as long as possible. Imagine the breath starting from your abdomen. As you breathe out, focus on releasing any tension. This will also encourage you to slow down. This is helpful when you first start to speak, when nerves are at their peak.

Your posture helps to support your voice. Stand with your weight evenly balanced. If sitting, ensure that the small of your back is firmly in the back of the chair. Pace of delivery helps listeners to follow with ease. Most of us tend to speak too quickly, especially when nervous. The pause acts as a brake. Pausing for two to three seconds at the end of your first sentence allows you to collect your thoughts and control your pace, and gives listeners time to absorb what has been said.

Emphasise the first word of a sentence and you will grab listeners’ attention. Emphasise the last and you will avoid running out of energy and tailing off. In many instances, a presenter has a message that they feel passionately about, but this fails to come across to the audience. What is missing is emphasis on the ‘power words’. Control of emphasis can be developed through simple exercises. Read aloud a poem or short piece of text, exaggerating the emphasis on certain words.

Role-playing can be an effective means of developing greater energy and variety of tone. If your voice is naturally soft, encourage it to have more strength and conviction by imagining you are a politician giving a speech. If your tone is naturally strong or abrasive, imagine you are comforting a child, to promote a softer, more engaging tone. The key is to achieve greater variety. A strong voice that suddenly softens or a soft voice that is suddenly more emphatic can help to grab attention or win back an audience whose attention may have strayed.

Developing yopur vocal skills

Here are five simple exercises to develop vocal skills:

To increase vocal stamina and energy, practise by reading aloud over the sound of the radio.

To gain greater control of emphasis, underline words to emphasise and practise exaggerating them.

To improve pronunciation of each syllable, exaggerate the words by drawing them out as much as possible.

Practise saying tongue twisters. Mouth them silently, exaggerating your mouth movements to warm up the face, or say them out loud to warm up the voice.

Practise aloud any difficult words or phrases by exaggerating the pronunciation of each syllable.

Liz Banks is managing director of external continuing professional development training provider Skillstudio