Finding the Real Power in Your Voice


David W. Richardson, CSP

We go to the gym to exercise and strengthen our bodies, and as a result we feel very good.  What about your voice . . . what do you do to exercise and strengthen it?

Our voice is a critical part of our message.  We've all heard everything from the high, squeaky voice to the low, gravelly voice.  There are speakers who need a microphone if there are more than 5 people in the room and those whose voice seems to carry into the next room.

Sometimes listeners make judgments about our level of professionalism and our trustworthiness simply from the sound of our voice.  If we truly want to take charge of our communication style, we must develop our verbal skills.

Imagine you are a pitcher in a baseball game.  Instead of throwing the ball, you are throwing your voice.  That ability comes with practice. 

Your voice should express conviction, vitality and enthusiasm to seize attention.  A weak voice is dull and uninteresting.  As you develop your vocal power, you will improve the quality of your voice -- even for those times you choose to speak very softly. 

The source of power in your voice is your diaphragm which is a group of muscles and tendons located between the chest and the abdominal cavity.  The diaphragm controls the action of the lungs, the "bellows" of speech.  A column of air is forced from the lungs, through the trachea and to the larynx, where tone is generated.  The tone then resonates in the holes in the head and the organs of articulation further define the sound. 

With proper use of your diaphragm, your upper abdomen (not your upper chest) will expand when you inhale and contract when you exhale.  If you do not use your diaphragm properly, your breathing will be shallow and will not support your voice adequately. 

The four steps in the production of voice are: 





But, the quality of your voice depends primarily on the tone support generated by the diaphragm and your breathing. 

Voice Exercises 

Before you speak, prepare your voice with the following exercises.  Continued practice will permanently improve the sound of your voice. 

Relax - Remember this is going to be FUN! 

        Yawn a few times. 

        Raise your shoulders and hold them tightly for 10 seconds - then release them and relax. 

        Clench your fists (tighten your entire body) and hold your muscles tight for 10 seconds - release and relax. 

Breathe - Without a continuous flow of oxygen your entire body will become extremely tense.  KEEP BREATHING! 

        Pant like a dog.  FEEL your diaphragm muscles functioning. 

        Place your hands below your rib cage and around your sides.  With your thumbs pointed towards your back and your fingers around your stomach, FEEL your stomach fill with air and PUSH it out. 

Project - Imagine the gas pedal on your car.  You are about to accelerate. 

        You can say any sentence but think of starting out slowly and then stepping firmly on the gas. 

        Stand on one side of the room and say your name and address to someone on the other side.

 Resonance - The depth and quality of your voice project professionalism. 

        Remember Tarzan?  Give a strong Tarzan yell.  Let you voice create the warbling affect. 

        Rattling your vocal cords - this is a very deep gargle effect.  You must totally relax your throat and slowly let the air flow out.  If done correctly, you will feel a deep vibration of your vocal cords.  For many people this takes considerable practice but don't give up because the results are noticeable.

One last word of advice -- PRACTICE these voice exercises every day.  Get into a habit.  You will be pleased and amazed at the improvement in the quality of your presentations. 

Do you have an accent you would like to modify or get rid of (e.g., deep Southern, harsh New York, ethnic, etc.)?  Please fax your business card with the word "accent" written on it to 480-415-9372 to receive "5 Tips to Help Lose That Accent" or send an e-mail with the subject line "accent" and including your name, telephone number and company information to           

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