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Presentation Skills: Voice

Your Voice Is a Precious Instrument. Protect It. Empower It. Enrich It.

Try these exercises to take care of your voice. And while you're at it, take some time to enrich your voice as well.

Because it's so important in conveying your message, take care of your voice. Get enough sleep. As much as possible, avoid smoke, alcohol, caffeine, and diuretics. They may dry out or irritate the vocal apparatus, reducing your voice's effectiveness.

It's good idea to gargle as part of your vocal preparation. This moistens the vocal apparatus and reduces irritation. It's especially helpful if you have a cold. A mixture of one teaspoon of salt and one of baking soda in a glass of warm water will go far towards soothing your voice.

Warm up your voice to make it more limber and reduce throaty tension that lessens your ability to control the sounds of your voice. Tension in the body invades the neck and shoulders. And it enters the throat, compressing the airwaves. The energy of sound then stays inside the body and batters the throat, causing hoarseness and other physical damage to the vocal apparatus.

Breathing correctly increases the impact of your voice. (See our article The Voice That Captivates.)

"Avoid smoke, alcohol, caffeine, and diuretics."

Expand your vocal expression.
Once your voice is protected and warmed up, you can start working to expand your vocal expressions.

Try this exercise: Select a poem and highlight or print out a stanza or a few lines. Read the section out loud to get a sense of it. Next, make a note of each "breath group"-words that logically go together and that you would say in one breath.

Pay attention to phrasing. Give each breath group a beginning, middle, and end. Experiment with the effect of attitude and emotion upon meaning. Choose a feeling you want to convey, such as pride, hesitance, happiness, patience, or some other emotion, and infuse your reading with it. Use variations in pitch, volume, rhythm, tempo, and timbre, to help you communicate the attitude or emotion you want to convey. As you read it, mark the variations. Finally, assess how those variations clarify meaning.

The emotional expression that you learn to recognize and replicate in this exercise can be transferred to any speaking event, whether a formal presentation or a casual conversation with colleagues. That further helps you to say what you mean. Emotional expression not only enriches your message; it also gives it an aura of truth.

This Issue

To prepare, protect, and enrich your voice, attend a presentation skills seminar that includes work on vocal technique or work privately with one of our consultants. For more information, follow the links or give us a call at 800-874-8278 or outside the US, +1 201 894 8200.

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