When I was in high school and college, I studied voice. I never became a great singer, but I have sat through enough voice training to fill these pages with more advice than you probably care to know. In college, I had a friend, Jim. He could sing like an opera singer without a day of formal vocal training.
I was so jealous. That boy could sing Ave Maria like no other. The only problem was that he was too shy to do it in public. He reserved his talent for a handful of friends. Crazy to think about it now. He has spent the rest of his life in DC selling hotdogs as a street vendor. I swear he could have had a singing career in musical theatre, had he developed his talent the right way in the first place.
He had an amazing range. Whether he was singing at low volume with a quiet voice or a higher pitch, his voice was strong, powerful, and didn’t seem to take much effort.
Even on my best day, the volume of my voice was different. I couldn’t produce the sound he did. For me, it always came out as a harsh tone. I produced a shouty tone at best when trying to match his style.
The good news is that with some practice and breath control, and by implementing a better breathing technique, I was able to improve dramatically, and so can you!
I asked Jim how he could project his voice with such a resonant sound that it was capable of literally shaking the walls of a room. What was his chief reason?
While I expected a technical answer, he just shrugged his shoulders and said he grew up listening to opera by default because his parents were all about it. He just imitated what he heard. The only thing he could tell me was to use plenty of breath and get the sound in the right place.
I’ve heard this advice numerous times. For me the advice was a little too generic. Then, it dawned on me. If you ever watch little kids talk or yell, they do so with their entire body. This was the little secret that make me realize I needed to know how to create a supportive cushion of air for my vocal tones step by step. While the human voice varies genetically, and by sheer anatomy, I’d never produce the exact sound that Jim did, you can learn to create a pleasing sound regardless of how much volume you need to produce.
In this article, I’ll unpack the major concepts around “how to project your voice when speaking” that I’ve learned.
By the end of reading this article, you should have a clear understanding of how to use your voice regardless of the room you are in or the sound in the room you are in. You will understand how sound travels and how to produce the volume of air you need to get maximum projection.
My goal is to give you a vocal technique that helps you create not only a useful skill, but a great sound quality without damaging your vocal folds, or straining your vocal cords. Keep in mind, the health of your vocal cords needs to be kept in check. It not only affects your singing voice but also your speaking voice. If you are sick, give your voice adequate rest.
I’ll go over best practices for improved projection whether you are in a big room or when you are speaking to a small group of people.
First off you have to become aware of your existing habits as well as your “instrument” which is made up of your lungs, diaphragm, larynx, pharynx, chest cavity, and throat muscles. You’ll need to know how you tend to breathe air in before speaking, correct bad posture, and learn how to stand with proper posture.
Beyond that, you will need to learn to increase or decrease volume based on the type of presentation you are doing as well as where you are speaking. The surroundings like ceiling, walls, flooring (carpeted vs. hard) in the room, mic or natural, and other things that can inhibit projection.
The environment can help or hurt your ability to project your voice to the back of the room. When it comes to mastering presentation skills being able to adjust your volume for effect can make the difference between an average experience for your audience and an awesome one.
Usually, you probably never pay much attention to how you sound until something goes wrong. If you find yourself in an embarrassing situation or having trouble getting your point across it’s easy to become aware of something missing.
Take action before this kind of problem happens to you. Practicing what you learn here, from a voice coach or books before getting in front of an audience can prevent failing publicly. Learning to take a deep breath and project your voice to the back of the room will help you avoid a sore throat, and get your message out to your audience.
Let’s be honest, hiring a good vocal coach is probably the last thing you want to spend your money on.
If you are short on time, here’s what you need to know.
How do you project your voice when speaking? As a general rule, control your breathing and airflow with your diaphragm, relax the muscles in your neck, throat, tongue and larynx. Hold a good posture with your rib cage expanded, and maintain resonance in the frontal (lower forehead), maxillary (cheekbone), and ethmoid areas around the eyes.
The technique I’m going to share with you has a lot of promise to show how you can speak loud and clearly without leaving your listeners with the impression that you are trying too hard.
You may have noticed that you have many different voices depending on situations.
If you are speaking to a close friend you might speak one way, to someone in authority another, and to someone stealing your computer in the middle of the night yet another.
Most of it has to do with body position and breath support.
The Best Method for Learning to Project Your Voice When Speaking
In order for you to get an idea of how everything works, we are going to look at doing 2 things.
Step 1: We will make your natural voice range distinguishable from other voices. Think of your voice as an instrument that has a natural range where it performs best.
Step 2. We will get control of your diaphragm, lungs, breathing, and breath support, using your air and throat appropriately. Make yourself aware of your posture and body alignment. Use the muscles that control how you breathe to manage the volume of your voice. Remember the idea is not to have to yell at the top of your lungs.
When you get the hang of this, you will be able to project your voice whether you stand or sit, and you will be on your way to learning how to project your voice when speaking in front of a crowd or just one person. You will be able to control your volume and pitch virtually effortlessly.
Voice Projection Questionnaire
Discovering the tell-tale signs of the reason people don’t have a strong voice.
Let’s take a quick assessment of how you currently project your voice:
Have you noticed any of the following in certain situations?
- Do you feel like you have trouble getting your voice across a short distance?
- Do you notice you speak higher pitched when you get nervous?
- Do you find it difficult to speak to a group?
- Do you think your voice or message is boring?
- Has your voice been hoarse after speaking for a long period of time?
- Do you wonder how others can speak so loud effortlessly?
- Do you feel your voice is naturally “soft-spoken”?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, keep reading.
Tips for First Time Public Speakers from Voice Coaches
Voice Projection Exercises – These concepts should help you out. When it comes to vocal projection exercises in general, the only way to ensure success is to focus on mastery of a couple at first. If it isn’t fun or starts to get frustrating, you may just give up.
No matter how you answered the above questions, I’m going to show you how to get to the point where you are speaking with loads of confidence, comfort, and ease. You’ll even be able to project your voice when speaking in a low voice.
Remember louder doesn’t create a powerful voice. Loud is… well.. just loud.
Let’s dive into the first step, you need to find your “true” speaking voice and speaking pitch. The best way to do this is to recite something you know well.
Or, start singing a familiar tune. Typically whatever pitch you start on is going to be the range of your natural speaking voice. Pay attention to the note you start out on the next time you start humming a song.
A good rule of thumb is to aim to speak mostly in that range.
This is a great way to discover your natural speaking voice and range. It is the range that you will be able to develop the most vocal power.
Now for Step 2. A Great Exercise to Prevent Shallow Breaths – Breathing Exercises that Expand Your Diaphragm Capacity.
Lie down and put a ball or pencil on your stomach. Now inhale to the point where the balls rolls off of your stomach. Taking a deep breath will force your belly button to rise and create a hill that causes the ball to move. If you do it the wrong way or tend to breath in your chest, the ball will stay on your stomach.
When you properly engage your diaphragm, it should go pretty quick. Keep this in mind when you inhale before you speak. If it doesn’t feel the same then your breath support will most likely be off and you will be speaking from your throat rather than your diaphragm which enables you to project your voice.
See if you can inhale quickly and make the ball bounce and land back on your abdomen. Remember we are just poking out our stomachs, this is diaphragm work and should be connected to inhaling.
By working on these volume exercises, you will get better control of how long you can speak/sing without taking another breath.
I don’t want to move on before I make mention of something I somewhat glossed over before.
Do you remember in step 1 where we discovered the range of our speaking voice and the pitch of it?
We have different registers. Registers are where the sound of the tone resonates like the inside tip of your forehead. For instance if the sound resonates in your nose, you will sound nasally. Proper resonance gives you a better quality of sound.
Singers know this and typically will choose where to “place” a note. We basically have 3 registers.
Top of the head, Mask (Front of the face – think cheekbones and eyes), and Chest.
Most of us don’t know much about this and if you talk and place your hand over one of these areas, you may notice that you can feel vibration more in one place over another.
In the case where you feel more resonance (vibration), you can get a sense for this.
Practice moving your voice up and down and see where the vibration is strongest.
To project, you will want to aim on getting the vibration strongest on the front of the face (rather than in the back of the throat).
Most of us speak from the throat and this is what causes us to get hoarse when we talk too long. You can check out where you typically “place” your voice yourself by holding your hand over your throat while you are talking to see how much vibration is there. Now put your hand on your chest and do the same. Then place your hand on your cheek bone. Pay attention to where the sound resonates.
A wonderful visualization technique to use to greatly improve your voice projection is to pretend you need to drive a nail into the back wall in the back of a room while speaking.
The nail is across the room. Notice that your voice will become more focused and concentrated.
The best part is that you can do this whether you are speaking softly or loud.
As a matter of fact, you may notice that the louder you speak without the focus is louder but doesn’t go far in delivering your message.
As you master the breath support we discussed in Step 2, you will notice that you can change your body position and still maintain the breath support to create more projection.
Other simple exercises and useful tips
Shoulder rolls can help you improve poor posture and get your upper body properly positioned which is an easy way to give you a louder voice, improve singing power and get rid of bad singing habits. As a general rule, when you think of proper speaking posture, it helps to visualize a string that is going straight out of the top of your head and you are suspended from the ceiling by it.
Search up “facial yoga” which can be a great tool to improve your ability to hold the proper facial position to maximize effective speaking and communication.
Add some warm-up and diction vocal exercises into your daily routine. This is an effective tool to improve crisp diction, which is essential for singing and speaking. If you are a hobby singer or spend time in the world of theatre, this can help you with different singing vowels which often get a bit complex in higher ranges which require more of an open mouth. For instance pronouncing the E “ee” sound more like an i “ihhhh” (like in the word “is”) at higher pitches is just one of the projection techniques people use.
This last tip almost goes without saying but at the very least will help you give off an impression of confidence. Make sure to take care of your body long term and get in better shape. If you are already in great shape, perfect. You are ahead of the game. There is a direct correlation to overall health and lung capacity and the volume of sound you will be able to produce.