“Why on earth people who have something to say that is worth hearing, should not learn how to make it heard, is one of the strange mysteries of modern life…”
Have you ever found yourself listening to a speaker and asking yourself the same question as Arthur Conan Doyle in the quote above? Or – horrible thought – have people made the same reflection listening to you speaking? Well, it is a large waste of energy to spend all that time preparing a presentation that nobody hears or understands, and a great shame not to get the recognition you and your work deserve.
Luckily, there are simple ways to blow life also into voices that have hibernated for a long time. Here are 5 tips:
1) Open the channel: Relax and align your body!
Align and relax your body to let air, energy and sound flow freely. Alignment refers to the relationship of the head to the rest of the body – your neck has to be aligned with your spine. Imagine your center of gravity moving from your busy head to the lower half of your body. Think of the “channel” as a wide garden hose running all the way along your spine, starting in your abdomen and ending in your mouth. Make sure there are no cranks on your hose! Open up your throat through yawning or smiling.
2) Switch on the power: Breathe!
Exhale vigorously through your mouth on an “fffff” and let your abdomen contract as you do it. Release your stomach muscles and let the air fall back into your body. Your belly will bulge out slightly as your lungs fill with air.
Repeat a few times, always remembering to release your abdominal muscles once you have exhaled all the air. Don’t worry about the in-breath – it happens automatically.
As you get used to the movement, start saying short words like “hi”, “no”, “yes”, “hello”. Then speak the days of the week, starting with one day per breath and gradually increasing the number of days per breath.
3) Tune the amplifiers: Feel the buzz!
Make sure your body is aligned and your chest open. Say “mmmmmm”. Can you feel the vibrations around your nose and cheekbones? The more relaxed your jaws, lips, and tongue, the more vibrations you will feel. Think the sound forward, as if your voice comes out between your front upper teeth.
Take a sentence from your presentation and say it exaggerating all the m’s, n’s, and v’s. Try to make this mask resonance carry over to all other sounds as well. Humming a few minutes before a presentation will not only help you find the mask resonance. It will also help to relax you and your voice!
4) Move and speak!
To set your voice free, there is nothing such as getting that body moving. Practice your speech walking, running, sitting, swinging your arms, and dancing a twist.
5) Emphasize: Give the keywords the importance they deserve!
Confident speakers use strong emphasis to great effect. Giving more weight to the words that are important for your content makes it easier for people to make meaning of what you say.
Take a few phrases from your presentation and underline the keywords. Practice the phrases landing heavily on these power words. E.g. “The new strategy has important implications in terms of time and money.” Listen to commentators and interviewers in the media and imitate them. You will be surprised by how strong the emphasis feels when you do it yourself.