Voice Projection and Volume
Projecting one’s voice at the appropriate volume enhances one’s effectiveness as a speaker.
In his article, Volume and the Public Speaker – Be Heard and Be Effective, Andrew Dlugan asks: “If you give a great speech, but nobody can hear you, does it really count?”
Dlugan suggests four strategies to achieve the goal of being heard:
- Minimize noise distractions, by closing doors or windows, dealing with chatterers, and not talking over laughter or applause.
- Minimize the distance to the audience, by moving the audience closer to you, moving yourself closer to the audience, blocking the seats at the back, or moving to a smaller room.
- Raise your volume to reach the person in the back row, by projecting your voice, using a microphone, articulating clearly and practicing good posture.
- Adapt as necessary, by asking the audience if they can hear and looking for non-verbal feedback from the audience.
Varying the volume
Dlugan also suggests strategies for varying the volume throughout because speaking for any length of time at the same volume (whether loud or soft) puts people to sleep. Just as gestures and body movement create visual interest, varying your volume creates vocal interest.
- Emphasize target words or phrases by speaking louder or softer (as appropriate).
- Mirror emotional content with volume changes. For example, when sharing a sad story, your volume should naturally drop. Conversely, when sharing a story which has action or surprise, your volume should increase, building to a climax.
- Finish sentences strong. Tailing off at the end of sentences is a common mistake made by speakers, often caused by looking back down at notes. The result? Your audience may miss the last word or two at the end of sentences, thus weakening your impact.
- Start loud. It’s not a strict rule, but generally a good idea to open a notch louder than average. It grabs attention and demonstrates enthusiasm.
- Finish loud. Also not a rule, but speaking louder helps create a rousing, confident finish. This is especially true in a persuasive or motivational speech.
In her article, Speak Up! A Guide to Voice Projection, Kate Peters says a powerful sound is much more than just making it louder:
- You project your voice by allowing it to shine with your personality, and having confidence that you have something unique to say.
- You project your voice with passion for your message by setting a clear intention.
- And you project your voice by developing a resonant sound that is supported.
She notes that the first two components are achieved by being yourself and by being clear about your intention. The third, through awareness and practice. Strong vocal physique is the ability to produce a vibrantly resonant sound and to have a good command of breathing technique.
Developing resonance through awareness and practice
Peters notes that resonance is the reverberation or repetition of sound in the environment in which it was created.
“When someone speaks, resonance is created in the body as well as in the surrounding area. The resonance in the body can be felt by the speaker. The two extremes of resonance are “head voice,” which is where high sounds resonate, and “chest voice,” which is where low sounds resonate.
However, most sounds the human voice makes can also resonate in the mask, or the front of the face. A voice with plenty of mask resonance is strong, and clear, no matter how loud or soft. A voice with good mask resonance is pleasant to listen to and flexible, allowing for rich vocal variety.
Mask resonance is a combination of nasal and mouth resonance. The sound you are looking for will produce a pronounced vibration in the front of your face.”
See Warming-up the Voice.
Carolyn Goyder, 2012, How To Do Voice Projection, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynmemxQicQk, accessed 31 January 2016.
Drawn from Andrew Dlugan, 2013, Volume and the Public Speaker – Be Heard and Be Effective, at http://sixminutes.dlugan.com/volume-public-speaker/, accessed 31 January 2016; Kate Peters, 2010, Speak Up! A Guide to Voice Projection, at http://sixminutes.dlugan.com/speak-up-voice-projection/; Kate Peters, 2010, Pump Up Your Speaking Voice with a Strength Training Workout, at http://sixminutes.dlugan.com/voice-strength-training/; accessed 31 January 2016.
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Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 2 February 2016.
Image: Six Minutes, Volume and the Public Speaker, at http://sixminutes.dlugan.com/volume-public-speaker/, accessed 31 January 2016.