The human voice is a beautiful and complex element of our being. Factors such as stress, health, geographical origin, genetics, education, emotional and psychological influences all come into play when you open your mouth to speak. Your speaking voice is also highly influential and one of the first impressions you make upon meeting others.
So are you speaking to the best of your ability? Is your voice clear and forward or does it have a swallowed or strangled feeling? Are you often hoarse after speaking for a prolonged period of time? Are you enunciating when you speak? Do you like your speaking voice?
Here are a few simple, easy exercises to improve your speaking voice right now. Try them out before an important meeting or interview. Better yet, start off your day with a few of the following exercises and you’ll find a new, more organic and relaxed voice evolving in no time:
Humming: One of the easiest and most accessible ways to improve the quality of your voice. Rumor has it that Frank Sinatra used this technique as his only “warm-up” before singing onstage. To prove its efficacy, speak a sentence prior to humming. Then hum for five minutes. Feel your lips vibrate. Hum high, hum low. Then speak the same sentence again. You’ll notice a cleaner, more forward sound. That’s the natural sound and placement of your voice.
Yawning: Could this get any easier? That’s right, yawn with sound (that natural “slide” sound from a high note to a low note). Don’t feel like yawning? Then fake it. Try this a few times in a row. Notice the relaxed opening in the back of your throat. Most of us restrict this part of our throat, due to stress and fatigue. The idea is to keep the same open “yawn” sensation when we speak throughout the day.
Donkey Bray: That’s right, donkey bray. (You may want to do this one in private!) Bray like a donkey – let your lips flap together and include sound (similar to the yawn “slide.”) Keep your lips loose and relaxed. Do this several times. Follow it up with some facial stretching – smile hard, then relax. Open your face as if to scream, hold for a second, then relax. Finish up with some gentle head rolls. A relaxed face and neck is a necessary vessel for a relaxed, assertive voice.
T-time: Enunciation is one of the weakest elements in most of our speech. Making some small changes in the way you pronounce words can change the way you are perceived. True or not, people who enunciate properly are often considered intelligent and well-spoken. So how do you start cleaning up your speech? Say the words “notice or “little.” If you “notice”, you probably say something closer to “nodice” and “liddle.” For one day, focus on your T’s. You don’t have to overdo it – small changes make a big difference.
Let Your Words Breathe: Most of us have a tendency to speak in a “slurry” manner, eliding one word to another. Pretty soon, an entire sentence sounds like one word! Grab your nearest magazine or newspaper and read from it. Exaggerate each word, focusing on the separate quality of each and every word. While you may not want to speak like this on a daily basis, you’ll get a sense of what true enunciation is all about.
Listen to the Pros: The next time you are listening to a newscast, imitate the anchorperson. These professionals are trained to speak quickly, clearly and concisely. Notice how much authority they radiate simply from speaking well. Try it on for size.
Breathing: Ultimately, breathing is the “root” or support of our speaking voice. If you are an anxious or uptight person, you need extra help here. When you wake up in the morning, observe your breathing. It is slow, steady and seems to come from your abdominal area. Take one minute each day and breathe deeply. Place your hand on your abdomen and focus on your breathing emanating from there. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your chest relatively still. This amazingly simple exercise not only changes your speech, it’s relaxing and reminds you of you true, natural breathing pattern.
These exercises are at your disposal throughout the day, so there’s no excuse not to try them! Remember – your voice is one of the most essential aspects of you – keep it tuned up and working well. It’s an easy way to improve your communications with others and ultimately, your confidence.