How to improve your speaking voice

help confidenceHaving touched on this last week in Do you sound confident I thought I’d go straight in and include some exercises to improve your speaking voice. But this is a vast subject – like any aspect of self improvement there is no quick fix. Also, there is no one way or one definitive set of exercises.

Firstly, I suggested practicing speaking out loud. This can be to rehearse what you want to say, getting yourself mentally sharper. But it also has the benefit of toning our “speaking” muscles. Lax muscles of the lips, tongue and cheeks can be toned the same way as any other muscle – by exercise.

Its worth coming back to another of my favourite topics – habits. We tend to get in the habit of using our bodies in whatever ways are easiest, and by copying those around us. Through laziness we slouch and stoop, and adopt to the weight we are carrying. Our speech is also a result of poor habits. Speaking clearly takes more effort than muttering or mumbling through hardly opened lips. Or grunting! Unless corrected our tongue, lips and cheeks take the line of least effort.

So if you want to improve your speaking voice, set aside time when you can read out loud without being disturbed, or when there are people around who will help and support, not make fun of you. Its worth remembering that before the invention of TV and radio, reading aloud was quite a common form of entertainment.

You could, of course, read to your children. But they may be put off and alarmed by the next stage. Having read out loud a page or a poem in your normal voice – loud enough to be heard in large room, if possible – repeat the exercise. But this time speak very slowly, stressing every syllable of the words. For example, look at this poem on my eBay page. It breaks the word MEMORIES into three syllable’s – me – mor – ies.

Don’t worry too much about being precise – the idea is to overemphasise the component parts of the word, especially the beginning and end. Be conscious of shaping your lips and tongue, and the movement of your cheeks, as you make these odd sounds. It will sound, and feel, very silly.

Another technique is to practice “over enunciating”, or exaggerating the movements you make as you speak. Ideally stand in front of a mirror and start speaking in a whisper – pretend you are passing a message to “your image” that you want no one else to hear. Observe how your muscles move, and gradually speak louder – still exaggerating the movements.

Speech is made up of consonants and vowels. Its the consonants – T,D,C,G,M,N,P,B L – that give are messages power and clarity. With a weak, or lazy, speaking voice its the consonants that will fade away leaving us sounding weak and indecisive. When practicing the above exercises take note of how you form these consonants, and over emphasise as you practice.

Ben Durban March 31, 2008 at 11:40 pm

Our teacher always taught us to read out loud even when we are alone.. that will ALWAYS help your speaking voice as you get to hear yourself.. and good for remembering things back

Ben Durban

Alyaa September 28, 2010 at 10:45 am

Great article and very useuful but I was put off by the repeated “its” typos. It’s = it is , while its = its! I believe you’re well aware of the effect of typos on the credibility of the text! And I’m not even a native speaker of English!

All the best.

Warren October 28, 2010 at 8:57 am

Great article, takes me back to my radio days. Still don’t understand why nit pickers go on about its and it’s. Punctuation is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, or is that its or it’s. So long a a person can understand what is being written then there is no need to nit pick.

Christine April 20, 2011 at 5:30 pm

What!? Nitpicking is different from expecting good writing skills. Punctuation may become more relaxed with the onset of texting, but language develops over hundreds of years. Thanks to thinkers like you we have a whole generation of kids growing up without being able to write and communicate effectively. If you are going to put yourself forward as an expert on something, take the time to make sure your message is presented well. Spell check will even do it for you! Anything else is laziness, and that is what is really taking over.

Warren April 24, 2011 at 6:52 am

Christine. I never put myself forward as an expert. It’s more of what I have witnessed and have been told over the years by the “so called literary professionals”. So don’t get on your high horse with me. Seems your peers have different ideas to you.

Mikey July 10, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Warren – “So long a a person can understand what is being written then there is no need to nit pick.”

It is rather difficult to understand what is being communicated without a standardised and accepted use of grammar and punctuation, both of which serve to help an orator or writer communicate without ambiguity.

Although the article is very good and the minor punctuation oversights didn’t betray its message – it’s fair (and not to mention responsible) for one to offer constructive feedback to a potentially unbeknownst writer.

Gabriel February 13, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Well I think, you are wrong. The small things make a great difference. The apostrofe is such important as a play of Shakespeare. Is everyone is going to invent new grammar rules, well, say good bye to the respect of your language.
Why you did not write all your words stuck together? I know what: ’cause we should work hard (and don’t you) reading twice what you are saying. THis is not an economic language. It’s an lazy language. In my opinion. cheers

Ralph October 31, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Really good post. When I was younger I used to drive right over those consonants. I had to learn to hit them really hard if I ever expected anyone to really understand the message I was trying to deliver. Keep up the awesome posts!

Edward Drummond December 8, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Silly humans. The man puts forth a great article about confidence and here come the silly humanoids, just like clockwork, to complain about something as arbitrarily pointless having absolutely nothing to do with the subject of “confidence”.
Forgive them Dave for they do not know that it is he that lacks confidence whosoever tries to undermine the confidence of others.
And I shall consider this advice for myself as well…Judge not silly humans, and thee shall not be judged judgmental.
Thanks for helping me with my confidence Dave.

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