How to Improve Your Voice

If you’re unhappy with your voice because you think it sounds too thin, weak, or soft, you’re definitely not alone.  The question of how to improve your voice is one that comes up weekly with my clients, from men and women alike.

It’s extremely common for folks to feel like their voices lack the depth and resonance they wish it had.  After all, when we imagine a powerful, charismatic speaker, one of the first things to come to mind is a speaker with a strong voice.

Some clients have even had their weak voices directly effect their professional lives–I’ve had more than one client who avoided speaking opportunities that could have come with huge professional opportunities because of how self conscious they were about their voice.

The good news is that there are techniques and exercises that will have an immediate and potentially drastic effect on the strength and timber of your voice.  With practice, they’ll become second nature.

So, to answer the question….how to improve your voice?

 

Step 1: Go to sleep.

Step 2: Wake up.

 

If you can manage those two simple steps (and I’m certainly hoping you did!), you’re well on your way to improving your voice.

That might sound like a flippant answer to the question of how to improve your voice–but I’m actually completely serious.

When you first wake up in the morning, you’ll notice that you’re voice is naturally at a lower pitch than it is for the rest of the day.  Sometimes it gets described as sounding “groggy” or “rumbly,” but something very specific and very important is going on to cause it.

The reason your voice tends to sound deeper when you first wake up after a good night’s sleep is because your vocal chords are at their most relaxed.   They’ve been rested for hours, and more importantly, so have you.

The more relaxed and at ease you feel, physically, the more relaxed your vocal chords will be, and the muscles in your throat responsible for your tone and timber.

If you want to have a clearer idea of the muscles at work, put your fingers on either side of your throat.  Then, briefly force your “gag reflex” to go off.  Allow your fingers to feel the muscles tensing in your throat as you do.

These are the muscles that are affecting your tone.  The more stressed they are, the harder it will be for you to have a deep, rich voice.

Simply being mindful of this fact can often be enough to make a difference in your presentation.  When you catch your voice sounding thin or strained, reflect on your level of stress or tension, and try to become more self aware of the connection.  As we continue, I’ll prepare you with a variety of tools to relax and reduce your stress before a presentation, but in the meantime something as simple as deep, slow breaths should help to significantly relax both you and your vocal chords, resulting in a much better sound.

Another aspect many speakers have in common, who come to me asking “how to improve your voice”, are complaints about their voices being thin or weak.  In many cases, however, this can actually stem from bad inflection habits.

Particularly, it’s quite common to see “weaker” speakers engaging in something linguists refer to as “uptalk,” or what in the UK is sometimes referred to as “high rising terminals.”

You might not be familiar with the terminology, but you’d immediately recognize the sound.

You could also know it more commonly as California “Valley-girl talk.”  It’s a verbal habit to end sentences with an upward intonation, as if each sentence was a question rather than a statement. If you live in North America, the odds are good you’ve heard it a thousand times.

If you think back, you’d be hard pressed to remember any powerful, deeply resonating speaker speak in this way.  On the flip side, when you do remember speakers who used uptalk, you probably remember their voices and presentations sounding weak, thin, and indecisive.  It’s very, very hard to use uptalk and give off any kind of strong, commanding, authoritative presence.

How to improve your voice if you’re an uptalker?

Despite it being so detrimental to the quality of our voices and presentations, it’s an easy habit to fall into.  Oftentimes, speakers simply pick it up through osmosis–being surrounded by speakers who have similar uptalking habits, or living in regions where upward inflections may simply be more common.  This effect can be exacerbated when speakers come from regions where upward inflection is a core part of a non-English native language–it’s just that much harder of a habit to break out of.

Other times, though, falling into uptalk has less to do with our surroundings, and more to do with our confidence.  When we’re uncertain, nervous, and generally lacking confidence, it can subconsciously creep into our enunciation, and betray our insecurity.

So, now that you know what it is, how do you deal with it?

Easily, actually.  In fact, this might be one of the easiest bad habits to break a speaker out of.

For starters, simply practice the following by yourself:

Firstly, say a statement, matter-of-factly.  For example:  “It’s raining today.”

Then, say the same statement, but imagine that you’re asking it to someone as a question: “It’s raining today?”

Repeat this several times with similar sentences.

Doing this will make you instantly recognize the difference between the two, and the more you do it, the more self aware and self conscious you will be of when you are falling into the rising inflection.

If you can do this basic exercise for a few minutes a day for just 2 or 3 times a week, it’s common to eliminate the habit permanently in less than a month.

This one, simple change can make a *dramatic* difference in how your tone and intonation are perceived by others, making your voice sound stronger, more self assured, and more commanding.  Simply put, you’ll sound like someone who knows what they’re talking about.

 

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