When’s the last time you really listened to your own voice? Maybe you were rehearsing for a presentation, or if you sing, practicing a song. You might’ve heard it while checking your voice mail or watching yourself in a video, and if you’re like most of us, you probably hardly even recognized it. We don’t think about our own voices very often, and when we do, it can seem like we’re just stuck with whatever voices we’re born with. But speaking is a skill, and just like any skill, we can improve and build upon it.
Author and sound expert Julian Treasure describes two important parts of speaking: what you say and how you say it. When it comes to what you say, Julian recommends the HAIL method, which means to always speak with Honesty, Authenticity, Integrity and Love.
As for how you say it, he suggests focusing on several different aspects of speech. There’s register, which you can think of as being how you project your voice. Some people speak from their noses and that can sound very flat and nasally, while most of us tend to speak from our throats without thinking about it. But if you want to give a sense of weight and authority to your words, you’ll want to speak from deep down in your chest. Think about where your voice is coming from, and then you can focus on other things like the “prosody,” the natural melody of your voice, the timbre and pitch of your voice as well as the pace and volume. Silence can be an important and easily overlooked part of speaking; a moment’s pause gives your listener a chance to consider what you’ve said before you move on.
If you’d like to hear more on the HAIL method and what Julian calls the Seven Deadly Sins of speaking, you can find a link to his video presentation below on speaking with empathy:
Professional speaker and voice coach Cynthia Zhai also suggests looking beyond just the tone of your voice and focusing on where your voice is coming from. More than 80% of people around the world speak with a “head voice,” a bustling, modern voice that expresses thinking, analyzing, doing, but not being; Cynthia notes it may be no coincidence that happiness rates around the world are also very low. When you practice speaking, try taking a deep breath and projecting from your whole body. Instead of thinking of your voice as a tool, let yourself become your voice. People in ancient times believed in a deep connection between our bodies, voices and selves, and that’s something we can lose sight of in today’s fast-paced world.
There’s a link below to Cynthia’s talk about the transformative power of your voice, and she’ll also be appearing on an upcoming episode of this podcast as a guest – so stay tuned!:
Finally there are the things you don’t want to do if you want to keep your voice clear and healthy. Producer and voice instructor Judy Rodman gives a lighthearted Halloween list of some of the things you can do to kill your voice: stressing out before you speak, talking breathlessly until your throat dries out, speaking with a vocal fry that strains your vocal cords. Smoking, drinking, staying up late, eating foods that give you acid reflux; just as Cynthia points out, there’s a profound link between our bodies and our voices, and if we don’t keep ourselves healthy, our voices won’t sound healthy.
For the rest of Judy Rodman’s 27 Ways to Murder Your Voice, check out a link to her YouTube video below:
As we end today’s podcast, why not try out a vocal warm-up exercise for yourself? You can also find a timestamp link below to Julian Treasure’s six vocal warm-up steps, starting with arm stretches and working your way through breathing, lip exercises, moving your tongue and finally flexing your vocal cords.
It might feel silly at first, but it takes over a hundred different muscles to speak. Just like the rest of your body, the more you practice and exercise, the stronger they’ll become.
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