There are some people who can walk into a room and effortlessly be heard by everyone, without raising their voices. This is called resonance and is due to a power in the voice that doesn’t rely on volume (shouting) to have impact.
Here are 7 tips to help you increase your own vocal power so you can command attention and be heard.
Tip One – Watch your posture:
Since you need your lungs to breathe, they’ll be quite limited in how much they can expand if you’re standing like a figure ‘C’, all hunched up, quite natural if you’ve been slaving over a laptop before you present.
Stand up straight with your feet firmly planted on the ground, looking out at your audience. This will help to ensure your voice carries to the back row.
Tip Two – Open your mouth:
Most people simply do not open their mouths enough. This decreases vocal projection. In workshops, people often feel it’s really unnatural to open their mouths more. When I film individuals ‘exaggerating’ and they watch themselves back, not only do they realise they sound more interesting but they look more expressive: both discoveries more likely to maintain the habit of opening the jaw more.
Tip Three – Breathe from your centre:
Breathe from the abdomen and imagine a beam of light from there, channelling out of your torso, throat and mouth, ‘zapping your audience’! The breath doesn’t generate in the upper chest but lower down in the ‘engine room’ around the belly. Your voice will drop and sound more resonant if you breathe from here.
Tip Four – Look at the audience, not your notes:
It’s amazing how many times I see people either looking towards their notes, or at the projector. If you look towards where you’re speaking, you’ll have a greater chance of being heard.
Tip Five – Visualise being in a stadium:
Simply imagining you’re speaking in a vast stadium can help you increase your volume.
Tip Six – Avoid ‘dribbling’:
Audiences often get tired of listening to speakers who ‘drop off’ at the end of the sentence. That is, the presenter loses volume. There are several physiological and psychological reasons why this may happen but ultimately it makes hard work for the listener, especially as the vital parts of information can be at the end of a phrase. Keep the vocal strength up to the end of the sentence. To avoid trailing off, think of pressing on the final syllable of the final word of the sentence or phrase.
Tip Seven – Use pauses to refuel:
Pauses can seem like uncomfortably long silences to the speaker, but to the listener they’re absolutely vital as a means to absorb and assimilate information. Without pauses, the speaker has no time to reach into their abdomen to breathe.
The best way to get used to pauses is to record yourself reading for a minute or so. We do this very consciously in workshops by pausing for a count of ‘one elephant’ at the following punctuation: ,/:/;/- and ‘two elephants’ (that means counting aloud ‘one elephant, two elephants’) for the ends of sentences. Once everyone’s recorded reading something into their phones a couple of times, they develop a feel for pauses so that the counting becomes intuitive rather than conscious, thereby allowing them to feel calmer, breathe deeper and project more.