Projecting your voice is not limited to large-audience speaking. If you’re addressing a team, classroom, theater audience, boardroom or even a very small group of people and there’s no microphone on hand, you need to be able to project. The key is to project your voice without draining yourself of energy and vocal chords. While some of the techniques rely on the art of speaking, arguably the most important require physical practice.
Below you will find all the best practices for learning how to project your voice, and you can combine these lessons with this five-star course on enhancing the delivery, confidence and performance of your speaking voice.
The first thing you need to do is address the problem. If you are comfortable speaking, have full control of the English language and already know the basics, you can move on to the next section. Otherwise, you’re probably suffering from poor posture, practices and enunciation.
Every time you prepare to speak publicly, you should review a brief checklist. You should, obviously, practice these tips until they feel perfectly natural.
- Enunciation. If English isn’t your first language, or even if it is and you have problems with certain sounds, remember that it’s better to enunciate as clearly as possible rather than mumble over the parts you’re unsure about. Mumbling will only confuse the audience further and weaken the power of your presentation. Practice the sounds you struggle with, looking at different tongue/mouth positions in front of the mirror if necessary.
- Consonant Attention. It’s generally easier and more natural to enunciate vowels, but don’t neglect consonants. You want an evenly projected voice that powers through everything you say. Just make sure you don’t overcompensate, which can cause you to place stress in the wrong areas. Smooth and natural is the way to go.
- Public Speaking 101. Don’t look at the floor. Don’t look at your hands. Look at the audience. Make eye contact. This will force you to literally project your voice towards their ears. It will also help them understand you if they can watch your mouth as you speak.
Any speech or acting coach will tell you that you need real practice to improve. If you have to stand in front of a mirror, so be it, but a larger room generally allows you to get a better grasp for volume and projection. This will allow you to “feel out” the exercises below and really understand how to use your voice in different rooms and settings.
How To Project Your Voice
Voice projection is all about breathing correctly and leveraging stomach strength; more specifically, the strength of your abdominal and diaphragm muscles. You don’t want to try to amplify your voice in your throat. This will be exhausting and, if sustained for long enough, will make you hoarse. This is not meant to feel natural. At first, it will almost undoubtedly feel very unnatural. But just a little bit of practice will make you significantly more comfortable. The first thing we need to address is breathing.
If you’re reading this article for singing purposed, you should definitely check out this great post on singing techniques for finding your voice and singing safely.
Sound is conducted by air. The more air you have at your disposal, the more sound you have, as well. This is why breathing is so critical to voice projection. The key skill you need to develop is deep lungs. Shallow breaths will cause you to run out of air almost immediately, which means you will start with a quiet voice and it will only get worse from there. Plus, you will be breathless and unable to articulate sounds, as if you just ran a race. Part of professionalism in speaking is remaining composed. And if you’re especially interested in public speaking, don’t pass on this masterful Public Speaking Made Easy course.
You want to use your abdomen to pressurize your voice, which is the opposite of other, sports-related breathing advice that tells you to breathe with your diaphragm. Practice filling your lungs completely by keeping your chest relatively flat and feeling your diaphragm move straight down, expanding as you go. In other words, deliberately round out your belly when you breathe. Allow your abdomen to fill up like a balloon. This will open up the bottom portion of your lungs, which are, in fact, the most voluminous. So if you’re only using the top of your lungs, you aren’t even approaching full air capacity. This also primes your abdomen to force that air back up with serious power.
To practice, fill your lungs as described above and use your abdomen to pressurize and force air out as you speak. You don’t have to flex as hard as you can, but only experimentation will help you perfect it. When speaking, reverse the process you use to inhale. Force air from the bottom up, refilling your stomach with air before it gets depleted. It should feel like a water balloon or holding tank as you exhale and inhale alternatively. Go for a full range of projection by trying both quiet and loud projection.
Well-exercised athletes have up to twice the lung capacity of the average person (this is especially true of swimmers). If you really want to see improvements in voice projection, get in better shape. Cardio, such as running, swimming or biking, simultaneously works your abdomen and builds your lungs. Even doing sit-ups, crunches and other abdomen exercises will help you effortlessly project your voice.
You should never let fear get in the way of your ability to speak and project yourself, but this is always easier said than done. Until now, at least, because you can quickly learn to how to beat your fears with this essential post on facing public speaking anxiety.
The Art Of Articulation
Articulation, which I mentioned above, is highly underrated. Projecting your voice and articulating it go hand-in-hand. Articulation requires energy, just like breathing does. This is why having a strong core is so important. Clear sounds travel more efficiently than muddled ones, so don’t skimp on articulation.
Your face is like the flaring on a horn. That is, a horn or brass instrument. We work very much like brass instruments, in that air begins under high pressure and is them released by a flared opening. Your mouth is as important as any other part of projection. Your cheeks and sinuses need to be strong and your mouth needs to be relaxed and open. A small, strained, closed mouth will completely kill the sound produced by your stomach. Build up jaw strength through practice and make sure your sinuses are always clear. Your sinuses are like the tubing of a brass instrument; if they’re clogged, you’ll dampen your projection considerably.
Don’t Force It
If you haven’t figured it out yet, projecting your voice is a fairly serious endeavor and requires considerable energy. When executed correctly, your voice will sound natural yet powerful. But until you develop the skills, don’t try to force your voice to be louder. Stay calm and open up your stomach, lungs and mouth. Once you’ve perfected your ability to resist the “forced” tendency, then you’re ready to take your speaking skills to the next level. This five-star advanced public speaking and presenting course has 39 speaking tips and secrets, no beginners allowed!