How to Develop An Effective Speaking Voice

Welcome back! I hope you’re getting ready for a wonderful holiday season. I’m here today to talk with you about your speaking voice.

When giving a presentation, people are often focused on how they are dressed and what the audience will think of their appearance. Their voice frequently takes a back seat and only becomes noticed when they start talking and don’t like what they hear. It’s easy to let nerves and emotions overwhelm you and have a negative impact on how you sound.

Let’s look at some of the ways you can improve your voice and use it as an effective part of your public speaking tool kit. What happens when you are asked to give a presentation or know you need to have a difficult conversation and are nervous about it?

Fighting Your Nerves

The first thing that many people experience is butterflies in the stomach and a feeling of nervousness, often well in advance of their speech. The earlier you gain control of your nerves, the more confident your voice will sound when the time comes for you to speak.

One way to do this is through breathing. Whenever you feel nervous about your upcoming talk, try this: breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold the breath for four seconds, and then breathe out through your mouth for four seconds. Controlled breathing helps lower your heartbeat and calm your nerves. Use this technique shortly before you take the stage to steady your nerves and voice.

Know Your Material

Preparation is an important factor in developing a memorable speaking voice. Be sure you know your material inside and out and are able to talk about it without your notes. This kind of in depth knowledge allows your brain to relax and your voice to sound steady and confident when you speak.

Hit the Brakes

Next is speed, a problem for many less-experienced speakers. Talking so fast that people can’t understand you is one of your body’s responses to fear. Your brain wants you to get through the speech as quickly as possible in order to get you off the stage and away from being the focus of a crowd. It’s related to the fight or flight affect you are likely familiar with.

Practice and experience are your best weapons against speed. When you are rehearsing, try this: say a series of numbers aloud and write them in the air with your finger as you talk. This is about the speed at which you should speak. Work on matching this speed with the pace of your words as your practice.

Adjust the Volume

Finally, adjust your vocal volume to the size of your audience. Next time you speak to a group, pay particular attention to the audience and their body language. Is anyone in the back straining to hear you? Or is your voice too loud for the people in the front? If you are using a microphone, you may need to adjust it. If not, make use of the space to move around as you talk and make sure you volume allows everyone to hear you.

Take a look at Robert Love’s tips on how to use the proper volume.

I would like you to try out the four-second breathing technique we discussed above. You can use it to calm your nerves in any stressful situation, not just public speaking. The more you use it, the better you will be at calming yourself before a public speaking event.

Give it a try and let me know what you think. And if you have more tips on improving your speaking voice, I would love to hear them.

Send me an email and tell me your tips!

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Moving Around The Stage

Welcome back! In this post I’m going to take a look at how you can use the very ground you stand on to strengthen your speaking skills and engage your audience. Whether you are on a stage or on the same level as your audience, the floor beneath your feet can be used to your advantage.

Know your space

If you aren’t already familiar with the space where you’ll be speaking, try to visit it before the day you will be there.

Take note of the size of your area and the audience’s space. Is there a podium? Will you be elevated on a stage?

Is there a microphone at the podium, will you be wearing one, or will there not be any amplification?

Blocking your moves

Theater and movie directors often “block” the area where they want the actors to walk and stand at different points in the production. You have an opportunity to do the same. Think about the points you want to emphasize and the transitions you want to make in your speech.

A good first step is to decide on a “home base” on the stage that you will move from and return to as you talk. Plan to move forward from the base to emphasize important points.

You can also acknowledge everyone in the audience by moving to different parts of the stage and making eye as you go.

Moving around as you talk helps people stay focused on you as well. A leaning forward just a bit as you step forward and gesture into the audience is a another great way to make use of the space.

 

Move Intentionally

While some people pace back and forth across the stage out of nervousness, others stand quite still and rarely move, as if they were rooted to the spot. Try not to pace from one end to the other. Instead, make deliberate moves across the stage that underscore your message.

Some people even choose to spend a brief amount of time standing in the audience as a way to make an important point.

Better than Power Point

You are your own best visual aid. Power Point slides and other visuals are great and have their place, but there is a tendency to hide behind them.

You – your movements, eye contact, gestures, and ability to engage the audience are your very best visual aids.

You can help keep your audience focused on you and your message when you take control of the stage and your movements.

What next?

Try marking out a space at home or in your office and practice moving and gesturing when you’re practicing a speech.

Once you have done it a few times, it will begin to feel very natural and you won’t even have to think about it. I would love to hear from you! How did it go?

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Giving A Persuasive Speech

If you haven’t already, at some point you will find yourself needing to give a persuasive speech or presentation.  Whether you want to pitch your product or service or convince a civic group to take a position or action on a controversial topic, the guidelines are the same.

giving-a-persuasive-speech

Remember The Basics

In your zeal to be a persuasive speaker, don’t forget the basics of great speaking.

Know your audience: Why are they there and what do they need? What you want them to know or do when they leave?

Speeches are made to be spoken, not read: Know your material well and make eye contact with the people you are talking to.

Keep visual aids simple: No busy slides. Just a few words, if any, per slide. Don’t use them as cue cards for yourself.

Know Your Goal

Knowing your audience helps with knowing your goal and using that information to plan an effective speech.

Will your audience be open minded? Hostile? Skeptical? Will they already have a basic understanding of the subject or will they need to be educated?

In many instances, it will be a mix of all of these.

Use Emotion

After you explain the basics of your topic, use emotive language to inspire your audience. You can tell an engaging story that illustrates your point. Try using action-oriented verbs and descriptive adverbs in your speech, especially in storytelling.

There is a great deal of science behind how people can be persuaded, including appealing to their emotions.

Be Believable

It’s important that your audience believe in you in order to get them to believe what you are telling them. Do they know who you are and what your motives are? If they believe you are entirely self-serving, they won’t be eager to buy in.

Speak from the heart and tell them why you, personally, are supporting your cause or what drives you in your business. They need to know that your goals are similar to theirs and that your cause or service is worth their time and effort.

Use Scaffolding

Just like a building under construction, your presentation needs structure. It should follow a logical line of reasoning that leads to the conclusion you want your audience to support. An outline is a helpful tool to use in developing the flow of your speech and order of your arguments.

State what you believe or want and then provide supportive arguments or examples that underscore your belief. Make it easy for your audience to mentally follow your logic from beginning to end.

One good strategy is to open with a compelling statement, such as “When you leave here today, you will understand why our services will turn your prospects into long-term clients that will bring their peers with them.”

It’s Your Turn!

Do you have a persuasive speech coming up or one that you gave recently that can be improved?

Sit down with your speech or subject and create an outline. Start with an opening statement that will capture the audience’s attention. Create a list of possible points you can make that will direct them to conclusion you want to leave them with. Then craft a closing sentence that restates your main point.

Use the comments section below to let me know how it turns out!

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