As a professional keynote speaker and presenter, my voice is naturally my greatest asset. In the past, I have hosted large events with tens of thousands of viewers and listeners. My voice must be ready for use at any time. Regular voice-training is therefore part of my everyday life.
My initial perception of my voice was forged in primary school. We were supposed to record something with a Walkman and then play it back in front of the class. My first thought: “What? That’s not me. Who was that talking on my tape?” By perceiving my voice with my inner ear, it sounded completely different than I had imagined.
In 2009 I started to work as a presenter and invested a lot of time and of course money in professional speech training. I practiced every day, took well over 70 individual lessons and participated in a large number of workshops. My entire training lasted almost 13 months. And my voice training continues to this day.
Voice training can also make everyday life easier
I firmly believe that voice training can not only be helpful on the job, but also beneficial for your everyday life.
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A trained voice that is strong and pleasant whilst simultaneously being characterized by clear pronunciation opens doors in private life as well as in business. People who have a strong voice are perceived as self-confident and strong personalities.
The voice should not be reduced to a mere means of communication; it is much more. It not only conveys the content of a speech, but also conveys emotions and shows whether what is being said actually corresponds to our opinions. The voice is therefore an important indicator during a discussion or a speech.
Everyone has an individual pitch
We all have a very natural pitch when we speak. We feel comfortable and can speak without effort. This pitch is called “indifference pitch”. Stress, fear and other emotions influence natural indifference. As a result, your voice sounds distorted when you are scared. In extreme, exceptional situations, the voice can even be completely absent.
In addition, there is the so-called “psychorespiratory effect”, which can be significantly improved by voice training. This effect is responsible for whether the owner of the voice appears likeable or not.
- A nasally-speaking person is often classified as arrogant.
- Speakers with a very sharp voice are often perceived as aggressive.
- When a speaker has a stuttering voice, the listener often suspects an untruth in the statements.
- An exaggerated way of speaking is also associated with incredibility.
With specific voice training exercises, you can easily find and strengthen your natural pitch.
How do you find the right pitch?
Every person has an individual speech-pitch in which they feel comfortable. If you become more nervous or hectic, you will automatically speak a few notes higher than you are used to.
Here is a trick to help you find your “feel-good pitch”:
- Think of your favorite dish and say “mmmmhh”. This pitch is your natural speaking pitch. When you speak naturally, your voice varies up to 5 tones and always returns to your natural speech pitch.
- A little exercise if you are out of balance with your voice: At the climax of the discussion, if you threaten to drift into higher tones, say “mmmhhh, I understand”. In this way, you can elegantly slide back into your natural pitch and signal: “I am confident, calm and relaxed and do not allow myself to be provoked.”
Which voice elements can you influence via voice training?
The voice is a fascinating instrument. Although we have vocal cords, the voice is not a string instrument but a brass instrument. You find your ideal voice through a combination of various elements such as pitch, speech melody, speech rhythm, speech speed and volume.
The pitch determines how many notes your voice has in its repertoire. This ranges from one octave, i.e. twelve semitones, for an untrained voice to three octaves for a trained voice. Interestingly, however, many people shy away from using their full potential and move within three to five semitones when speaking. That’s about it. So it’s no wonder that the speech or presentation quickly becomes somewhat monotonous or even sleepy for the listener.
Dare to play a little bit more with your pitches here. It is important that this does not happen randomly. If you want to emphasize a word in a sentence, just like you emphasize important things in a book, then you can go up or down with your voice. You can also use your pitch to emphasize particularly emotional moments.
2. Speech melody
Our voice always follows a melody. This speech melody has three possible courses:
- Up the stairs: When the voice goes up.
- Down the stairs: This is where your voice goes down.
- Straight ahead: We stay at about the same pitch.
We are often taught that when we ask a question, our voice goes up at the end of the sentence and at one point we go down. Nothing could be more unnatural! If you go down with your voice at the end of each sentence, it sounds as if your car’s engine is constantly dying. You’re not getting anywhere. Not only will it be exhausting for your listener, but it will also sound as if an elementary-school child is reciting a Christmas poem.
What many people don’t know is that a paragraph equals a thought! If you were talking normally with your friends, you would never get the idea to go down after every sentence with your voice, but always after your thought. Keep it that way when you talk in front of people. You are welcome to play with your speech melody within a paragraph and thereby emphasize or accentuate individual words. But do not go all the way down with your voice until the end of the paragraph.
3. Speech speed
Do you know this one? In discussions there is always the discussion participant who speaks with an incredible calmness and thus gains the upper hand. Approximately 120 words per minute is considered a moderate speech-speed.
It has also been found that visual people tend to talk faster, while kinaesthetic people have to “feel” their words and therefore usually talk much slower. Auditive people find their speed mostly in the middle range.
Even more important than the actual speed at which you speak to your listeners is the rhythm. Always talking at the same monotonous speed quickly seems boring. Variation is the magic word with which you inspire your audience; but how?
Adapt the speed to the emotional state you want to convey: if you are sad or bored, you are more likely to speak at a low tempo. Anger and excitement, and also joy and euphoria will increase your speed.
Tonality tells you how to use your voice and what effect you can achieve with it. Do you have a full voice or do you regularly croak, especially towards the end of the sentence? This is primarily influenced by your breathing and the air you have available when you are speaking.
If your breathing always gets stuck in your chest and you cannot use the whole resonating body of your belly, you cannot expect your voice to sound full. If you regularly run out of air at the end of the sentence, you will be unable to avoid a croak. Imagine that your belly works like a balloon and gets smaller while you are talking and fills up again as soon as you breathe. This will give your voice more volume, fullness and a much more pleasant tonality.
With every conversation and with every speech, it is also important that you vary your volume, and also adapt to the situation and to your listeners. By lowering the volume, you can quickly create a feeling of intimacy, which automatically increases the attention of your audience. Headlines and keypoints can be projected to listeners with increased volume.
Daily voice-training is worthwhile
For many of us it is self-evident: if you want to build an athletic body, you have to train daily. Why should it be different with the voice? As a presenter and keynote speaker, daily voice training is one of my must-dos. How does it work?
Put aside ten minutes a day in which to read your current favorite book out loud. Record yourself regularly and listen to how your voice sounds. Do you like what you hear? You’ll find that with regular, targeted training, your voice will turn into a real jewel.
If you want to improve your overall stage presence you should read my guide with 7 simple EXERCISES to improve your stage presence.
What question comes to your mind when you think of voice training? Can you envisage that a powerful voice, which you can use consciously, can bring you advantages in your everyday- and professional-life? How can I help you to make your voice a beautiful instrument?