How to project your voice more effectively. It’s easily in the top ten of the most common questions I get asked by both new and experienced speakers alike.
Voice project is also one of the most important aspects of delivery to nail down before you move on to the more advanced techniques. After all, if no one can hear what you’re saying, nothing else will matter.
How to Project Your Voice–First Steps
When we’re nervous or uncertain, it’s common for a speaker to become quieter. Some speakers tend to become quieter as they reach the end of a sentence. Still others just naturally speak in a very soft spoken, quiet tone of voice. Whatever the case, if the end result makes you difficult for your audience to hear, it needs to be fixed asap.
First of all though, it’s important to get an objective idea of just how effectively you’re already projecting.
You’d be surprised how many speakers I’ve run into who are convinced they are barely audible on stage, who are, in fact, speaking more than loudly enough to be heard by everyone in the room.
Before we get too far, then, the best place to start is to get some feedback on just how loud you are now.
The easiest way to do it: find a friend, colleague (or me!) to come in and listen to you give a presentation. Have them sit in the back of the room, ideally of a similar size to the venue you’ll be giving your presentation. Deliver a few lines of your speech as loud as you can without shouting–then confirm with your friend that they could hear you clearly, and ask for any additional feedback. Then, go back and read a portion of your speech as quietly as you can, while still trying to have your friend be able to hear you.
Again, get their feedback. If they can’t hear you, practice the exercise again, just a little louder.
Repeat the process until you can clearly be heard in as quiet a voice as possible in the back of the room.
You can have fun with this exercise, practicing a broad range of levels; finding just the right volume for your friend to hear you in your “normal” speaking voice, practicing delivering some of your content in different emotions (reading the same line as if you were sad, overjoyed, confused, etc), and finding just the right volume for your colleague to be able to clearly hear you. The more practice and feedback you receive, the more comfortable you will be with your voice and your projection by the time you give your actual presentation.
How to Project Your Voice – What to do When Basic Exercises Aren’t Helping
If, while practicing, you really run into difficulties speaking loudly enough for your practice partner to hear, try to get additional feedback from them. Your partner may catch you in certain bad habits that could be hurting your ability to be clearly heard at a distance.
There are a few common culprits:
1)A lack of eye contact: It might surprise you, but eye contact is a frequent reason for speakers to fail at projecting their voices. When a speaker isn’t giving eye contact, they’re typically aiming their head away from their audience–either looking downward, or looking at their notes on the podium. In doing so, their voice is projecting at an angle that makes it very difficult to project to the back of the room.
The more you can look directly at your audience while you speak, the easier it will be for the soundwaves to naturally project towards your audience and be heard at a much greater distance.
2)A lack of confidence with the material: This might be the most common source of poor voice projection of all.
Imagine reading an excerpt from a famous speech you’ve heard a million times–maybe something like Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, or a comparably famous political or film speech in your own native country. It wouldn’t take much practice to have the lines completely or nearly memorized. You can almost hear the tone and pacing of the original speaker in your head.
Now, go and practice saying those lines out loud. 99 times out of 100, it won’t be much of a challenge for you to deliver them loudly and clearly.
As a comparison, find a technical or instruction manual. Read it over a few times, then try to deliver a few lines from the text as part of a pretend presentation.
If you’re like most people, the delivery for this second part will be much, much worse–choppy, stilted sounding, and, oftentimes, much harder to hear.
The more unsure we are when we’re delivering a line (even moreso if we’re directly reading a line we haven’t memorized) the more likely it is that we will deliver it with volume and clarity.
3)Nerves: Obviously, if you’re feeling extremely nervous or uncomfortable while you’re speaking on stage, it will only be natural for you to have less control of your voice. This can translate into speakers delivering their speech too quietly, speaking too quickly, and a host of other challenges.
For many speakers, practicing 1) and being mindful of 2) and 3) can be enough to iron out your issues with volume and projection. For everyone else, I’ll be happy to work with you one on one, to teach you how to project your voice more effectively.