This Article is Written by: Kendrick Knowles
Imagine walking into a colleague’s office and hearing a raspy, nasally, flat voice on speakerphone – Immediately, you think, wow that guy sounds like he’s tired, drunk and has a bad cold – all at the same time!
That was me about a year ago, “Mr. Monotonous Flu Guy”, I can still remember my coworker spinning her chair around and saying, “I was just leaving you a voicemail, thanks for dropping in to see me. By the way, you should really create a new voicemail message, you sound really dry.”
I got the message. It wasn’t until after hearing what other people heard, that I knew my voice needed to improve.
I decided to get help. My quest for help led me to discover three powerful techniques that would create a voice that won’t make the people around me cringe, a voice that has now led me to speak more confidently and a voice that has helped me in professional and competitive speaking.
Practice as often as you can only breathing in through your nose. When you are speaking this is obviously easy to do as your mouth is pushing out air when you talk. However, when you are not speaking you should try this as well. Strive to make your regular breathing in as much as possible only through the nose and not the mouth. The mouth is for pushing the air out when you speak.
The nostrils are amazing at filtering and warming the air that passes through. This air goes straight to the vocal chords and makes your voice richer and clearer. The mouth on the other hand doesn’t filter this way, in fact the more you breathe in through your mouth, the easier it is to become dehydrated, that can lead to dry mouth and mucus build up. I noticed a significant difference in the way my voice sounded by consciously breathing in only through my nose. Try it, it’s a small thing that can add huge value to your voice.
TECHNIQUE 2 – Breathe Diaphragmatically
Ok, breathing in from the nose is great, but what should your shoulders, chest and mouth be doing?
Diaphragmatic breathing helps to answer that question. Put simply, if we can control the way the air exits the mouth, we can also control the way the words sound.
Diaphragmatic breathing is breathing done by contracting the diaphragm instead of the chest. The diaphragm sits between the chest and stomach cavity. In other words, when breathing – rather than expanding and contracting your chest, your belly should be expanding and contracting.
To improve your voice, you should know how to breathe diagrammatically. Why?
The shoulders and chest should never raise when you are breathing, this creates tension in the neck all the way to the vocal chords. When you speak for long periods and you feel tension in your neck and shoulders, it may be a sign that you are breathing incorrectly.
To create a powerful voice, your stomach area above your belly button should be coming in when you speak. As your mouth pushes the air out, your words should ride out on that air stream while your stomach is coming in.
Let’s try this exercise. Place your hand over your belly button, as you inhale through your nose fill up your stomach with air. Remember do not move anything except for your stomach. (chest and shoulders should not move).Now exhale with your mouth – your stomach should be going back in.
Breathing this way helped me to create a far better sound. Try it.
You’ve probably already picked up on the fact that better breathing is tied to better speaking.
I would also like to add that a healthy larynx (meaning one that stays in a neutral position as you speak) also creates a better speaking voice.
If you put your index finger on your chin and slide it back down the center of your neck to the first bump. That “bump’ is your adam’s apple and your larynx is behind that. Keep your finger on your adam’s apple and try swallowing. Notice it rises above your finger? That’s great and normal for swallowing. When you speak however, that rising action should never happen.
Try this. When you speak, place your finger on your adam’s apple if it is jumping high over your finger, It means your larynx is working against you. It is constricting your throat and competing with the bed of air that we want to come out. Note, that the larynx should move, but just a little, not over the finger like when you swallowed.
Good news, if your larynx does move excessively when you speak, it can easily be trained back into its neutral position using low larynx vocal exercises. A few exercises that I learnt was making the “goog-goog-goog”, “gug-gug-gug” and “gah-gah-gah” sounds with my voice. This is a technique many singers use to get their larynx in shape. Try it a few times a day and check if it that makes a difference.
How to Be a Speaker: Use these three vocal techniques to help your voice sound clearer and stronger while on stage.
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