Speaking effectively is defined as speaking in such a way that your message is clearly heard and, if possible, acted upon. 2
Effective speaking involves Words, Voice and Body Language. A poor use of any of these 3 elements reduces the quality of your speech.
It is important that you use words which both you and your audience understand. If you cannot explain a word correctly or break a term down into simpler meaning, don’t use it. Technically, this means you have to use words that are familiar to you and your audience. The only exception is if you are speaking to an audience whose language is foreign; then you will need a skilled interpreter.
Voice is to speech what an inviting dish is to a meal. The sound of your voice gives your audience an impression about you. They can tell if you are afraid, shy,bold or courageous. It is important that you pay attention to how your voice sounds in public and how it sounds in private. This will help you note what adjustments you need to make to project your voice adequately when speaking in public.
One of my favourite authors, Brian Tracy, shares the following tips for improving your public speaking voice 3
1) Slow Down
When you speak more slowly, your voice has more power and authority. Your listeners have an opportunity to absorb and reflect on what you’re saying.
A speaking voice that exudes confidence will give your words greater importance.
All-powerful people speak slowly, enunciate clearly, and express themselves with confidence.
When you speak too rapidly, your pitch increases, often to something squeaky and child-like. This decreases the impact of your words and your influence on the audience because listeners downgrade the importance or value of what you are saying.
So remember, a loud, confident speaking voice presented with an even pace will lead to a powerful and moving speech.
2) Use Voice Exercises
The human voice is like a muscle. It can be made stronger with exercise and use.
Many people with weak voices have become powerful, confident speakers by building their voices over time with exercise.
Here’s an example. Memorize a piece of poetry and recite it regularly as you drive or walk around. Imagine that you’re making a dramatic presentation on a stage, in front of a large number of people.
Put emotion and strength and emphasis and energy into the words. Go slowly. Change the emphasis on each word in the line of poetry, thereby changing the meaning of the line.
3) Record And Listen To Your Voice
As you develop your ability to speak powerfully, record yourself reading poetry or parts of plays. Replay these recordings over and over, looking for ways to improve your pronunciation, your delivery, and your pacing.
4) Record Phone Conversations
You can increase your level of vocal mastery by recording your side of conversations and listening to them afterwards. Every time you record and play back your own voice, you will hear different ways that you could improve your delivery and articulation next time.
5) Focus On Pauses
The drama and power of a speech is contained in the silences that you create as you move from point to point. There are four kinds of pauses you can use to put more power into your presentations. They are,
- The Sense Pause: Used to allow people to absorb the new information and catch up with you.
- The Dramatic Pause: Used to make a point stick in the listener’s mind.
- The Emphatic Pause: Used to emphasize an important point
- The Sentence-Completion Pause: Used to make a statement or quote a line in which everyone is familiar,then let the audience answer it for you.
6) Eat And Drink Well
Energy is essential for good speaking and voice projection. Before a short talk, eat lightly. This ensures that you are bright and alert when you start speaking and that your brain is functioning at its best.
Before a long talk, it’s essential to eat well. A solid, high-protein breakfast or lunch will give you energy to burn for four to five hours. Protein is brain food, and you need it to think and speak effectively. Your voice will remain strong and your mind will stay clear.
To ensure the best possible voice, only drink room temperature water before and during your speech. Cold water can chill your vocal cords and decrease the amount of warmth in your voice. When you have a sore throat, it can be difficult to speak clearly and project that voice. If this occurs, drink hot water with lots of honey and lemon juice.
By following these 6 steps as taught by Brian Tracy, you will
drastically improve your speaking voice. The feeling of confidence and
readiness that will accompany practicing these skills will make you feel
unstoppable. It’s a great way to overcome any stage fright that you might deal
with in front of a large crowd.
HOW BREATHING AFFECTS YOUR VOICE AND QUALITY OF SPEECH
Breathing correctly enhances the voice by making it richer, fuller and more powerful. It helps your body relax and ease off tension that hampers effective speaking. See Dominic Colenso's Breathing Exercises for Confident Public Speaking and Raquel Baldelomar's Sound Like A Leader: How To Breathe Correctly When Speaking
ELEMENTS OF VOCAL PRODUCTION
Three main elements of vocal production are Volume, Clarity and variety 2.
Volume: It is very important that you are heard when speaking. Project your voice from your diaphragm /stomach region by breathing carefully as taught in the videos above. Don’t shout. Just use your breath correctly.
Clarity: To be understood, you need to open your lips correctly when speaking. For instance, when pronouncing letter O as in Orange. Shape your lips in a circle and open your jaws. Avoid clenching your lips or speaking through your nose in other to fake an accent.
Variety: This refers to the range of interest your voice can stir up in your listeners. Vocal variety can be achieved by variations in the following;
- Pitch – speaking in a high, low or natural voice.
- Pace – the speed at which you speak
- Pause – As we explained earlier
- Tone – Refers to the strength of your voice e.g gentle or harsh
- Volume – Determines if you are speaking loudly.
- Accent – a distinct emphasis given to a syllable or word in speech by stress or pitch 1
- Emphasis – the pressure on individual words that makes them stand out.4
- Intonation – the rise and fall of the voice. Intonation helps us to say what we mean.
2. Skills you need https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/effective-speaking.html (Accessed September 2, 2010)
3. Brian Tracy, “6 Tips to improve your public speaking voice https://www.briantracy.com/blog/public-speaking/6-tips-to-improve-your-public-speaking-voice/ Accessed September 2, 2010)
4. .BBC “Vocal elements” https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zqtgq6f/revision/2 https://www.briantracy.com/blog/public-speaking/6-tips-to-improve-your-public-speaking-voice/ Accessed September 2, 2010)