Public speech techniques
Learning how to control your voice properly takes perseverance, training and practice, but with these five simple public speech techniques, you’re be projecting with confidence, power and an assertive tone. Our speaking accents and our natural delivery are often very far removed from the way our voices are designed to function, learning how to use your vocal mechanism in the right way is the first step towards building a professional public speaking voice.
Speaking confidently in public and having a proper grasp on how your voice works is an important skill that will advance your life in so many ways, from your professional career to your person life – confident speech is the key to success.
#1 – Breathing
Learning to breathe correctly is the first step towards a powerful public speaking voice, as our breathing is the foundation on which our voices resonate upon. If you’ve ever taken a public speaking course, the first thing you would have been told is ‘breathe deep’ most likely – but I’m going to take this a step further by SHOWING you how exactly to breathe deep with diaphragmatic engagement and extension of your diaphragm. The diaphragm is a large dome shaped muscle that sits at the very base of the lung cavity, and with training has the ability to extend downwards towards the abdomen creating a ‘negative space’ that fills with air like a vacuum.
The best way to develop control over your diaphragm is to imagine breathing sharp and low as though you are inhaling through a small drinking straw. You can also lie on your back with a ball or cup on your navel, your hand even, and try to make it move using only your breathing. If you are engaging your diaphragm properly for correct diaphragmatic breathing, it should feel as though your breathing occurs more in your belly than from your chest. This brings me to step two;
#2 – Posture
Keeping the correct posture will not only make you FEEL powerful and assertive, but allow you to breathe in the correct manner via extension of the diaphragm rather than contraction of the ribs. In singing, this is often called appoggio singing technique, but when it comes to public speech techniques we’ll just keep it simple and call it good speaking posture. Your posture starts with your head being raised from the top of your skull, your chin being parallel with the floor, your shoulders being back and your chest in a PROUD stance. A great way to achieve this proud stance is to raise your sternum without breathing in any air, allowing you to control your air intake and exhalation purely from extension of your diaphragm rather than your ribs like we often do in speech.
A great way to practice engaging the diaphragm is to toggle your breath between your nose and mouth – in through your nose into your belly, and then out through your mouth. My free foundations short course will show you the BEST diaphragmtic breathing exercise to build control and power in your breathing so you can learn the very best public speech techniques.
#3 – Resonance
Believe it or not, your voice works via air PRESSURE and vibration rather than air FLOW. It’s not air flowing across your vocal chords that creates your voice, it’s actually air pressure creating vibration of your overlapped vocal chords that causes resonance in the resonant chambers of your head that creates your voicp. Placing your resonance is extremely important in public speaking to allow for the most efficient resonance to buzz and ping rather than expending energy on uneccesary frequencies which don’t vibrate effectively. Learning how to place your resonance for public speaking is very similar to vocal placement in singing – basically, you need to limit the excess frequencies that occur below your top teeth rather than ‘pushing’ your voice out of your throat.
Resonance placement allows you to create a POWERFUL sound and STRONG singing voice using very little effort or energy, and is one of the most important parts in only the very best public speech techniques.
#4 – Articulate your consonants
Not all consonant sounds are created equal, I personally like to group my consonants into types and then form an approach for each of my speech students. This is a general guide to your consonant sound types;
Glottal consonants – Glottal consonants are sounds like G and K that sometimes occur from a dead stop or closure in the glottis. Most public speakers and singers alike experience issues with the glottal consonants, but I’ve found Australians and Eastern Europeans in particular have a particular issue articulating their glottal consonants. The key to pronouncing a glottal consonant sound is to replace the glottal stop with a click of their tongue. This singing tutorial I’ve put together applies to speech in the same manner and will show you how to articulate your G and K sounds without closing the glottis:
#5 – Release your registers
Quite often, issues with the speaking voice are related to improper release of the vocal registers – leading to physical strain of the musculature used to control our low range and our high range. Our speaking voices often occur in a combination of these two ranges, which in singing is called the MIX or MIDDLE register, but in speaking we’ll simply refer to as a neutral tone – neither the lowest nor the highest tone you can speak in, a middle tonality.
In singing, the MIX register is a combination of the muscles used for the ‘head’ register (high voice) and ‘chest’ register (low voice) – in public speaking techniques, the mechanism is actually the same, but with a different application and intent. Rather than forcing our ‘chest’ musculature to project full and loud in public speaking, you can actually meet in the MIDDLE of your two registers for the same DEPTH of tone you experience in your low voice, but with a released delivery that your higher ‘head’ range affords. You can hear this effect in detail when I sing using my middle register as opposed to how I often speak in my low “chest” register.
Now, you might be asking why my tutorials often including singing – and the answer is that singing is your TRUE voice, and that the best speech is often partly SUNG, but no good singing is spoken in any way. If you learn proper control over the musculature of your voice, you will be in complete control of your public speaking voice, and the anxieties associated with public speaking will dissipate in place of a POWERFUL and ASSERTIVE voice that truly makes you feel, and sound – in control of your ideas and the concepts you wish to share with others.
Since I launched Bohemian Vocal Studio in 2010, I’ve had the pleasure of coaching students all around the world how to improve control over their voices to become professional singers, public speakers and even stars in music theatre productions of The Producers, Fiddler on the Roof, Rock of Ages and Shrek – my understand of the physical mechanics behind the voice have allowed me to help students with all manner of accents improve control over their voices to speak English more clearly, speak in their native accents without strain or fatigue and also build powerful singing voices. If you’re having trouble developing your public speech techniques, you can book a Skype session with me today and I’ll SHOW you how your voice is really designed to function so that you can speak with confidence, power and control, leaving you feeling CONFIDENT, POWERFUL and in CONTROL of your life through your voice.
Feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.