My voice fades out when I speak in front of an audience.
I feel tightness in my throat when I give a presentation.
I lose my voice by the end of my speeches.
I feel as if I’m running out of breath when I speak in public.
In my work as a communications coach and speech pathologist, I hear many concerns like these. Let’s assume you’ve organized and written your notes, you have your visuals or handouts, and you think you’re ready to present. But have you considered the optimal conditions for your voice, the vehicle that will deliver what you want to say?
One of the critical elements for a strong presentation voice is reducing vocal strain and using your voice properly.
Before you begin :
- Be sure to hydrate: drink plenty of water beforehand so your throat isn’t dry when you start and have water handy while you’re speaking.
- Arrange for a microphone if you’re in a room larger than a regular classroom. If you’re using a mike, get there early, check the sound levels and be sure you know how to speak properly into the mike. Do a sound test with a technician or someone who can tell you if you’re audible at the back of the room. There’s a tendency to force the voice to project when speaking in a large space so proper use of amplification can make a critical difference in reducing vocal strain.
- If possible, go to a quiet place and stretch, especially your upper body. Do some vocal warm-ups and take some deep breaths. These are the techniques used by actors and singers who are professional voice users. If necessary, warm up at home or in your office before you present.
While you’re speaking:
- Keep your voice at a steady volume and pitch in order to maintain a natural voice.
- Monitor your rate. Many people, especially those who aren’t professional voice users, tend to speak too quickly — usually because of nerves, but sometimes because they’ve prepared too much material for the time that’s available. This is where planning and organization become a key element in making an effective presentation.
- Don’t forget to breathe. Controlling your breath while speaking is one of the keys to reducing the strain on your voice.
- Take sips of water as you speak, before that dry, strained feeling in your throat begins. It’s fine to pause and take a sip; your audience won’t start to fidget if you give them a few seconds to process what you’ve said (and it gives you an added bonus of thinking time.)
I’ve discussed aspects of these tips I recommend to my clients in previous blog entries on effective speaking, including, “The Two P’s for Effective Speaking,” http://lazarspeech.com/2013/04/30/the-two-ps-for-effective-speaking/,”Where Did My Voice Go?” http://lazarspeech.com/2013/05/28/where-did-my-voice-go/ , “Will I Ever Enjoy Giving A Presentation?” http://lazarspeech.com/2013/11/01/will-i-ever-enjoy-making-a-presentation/ You might like to scroll down and read more about effective speaking skills and preserving your voice.
Check back soon for more thoughts on effective speaking, speech pathology and executive function skills.