When I was in high school and college, I studied voice. While I never became a great singer, I have sat through enough voice training to fill these pages with more advice than you really need to know.
In this article, we will unpack the major concepts around “how to project your voice when speaking.”
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 properly understand how sound travels and how to produce the volume of air you need to get maximum projection and sound quality without damaging your vocal cords, or straining your vocal cords. Remember when it comes to how you are perceived, it is all about the voice.
The main method we will cover is deeply rooted in an awareness of your lungs, breathing, air, larynx, existing habits, presentation surroundings like ceiling, walls, floor, amount of resistance from material in the room, mic or natural, and other things that can inhibit projection or from you reaching the back of the room.
Usually, we never pay much attention to how we sound until something goes wrong, we are in an embarrassing situation or have trouble getting our point across. A good presenter will make sure they exercise what they have learned from a voice coach before getting in front of an audience.
So how do you project your voice when speaking? Control your breathing and airflow with your diaphragm, relax the muscles in your neck and 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.
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.
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. This is how you will control your volume.
Voice Projection Questionnaire
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.
No matter how you answered, 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 step 1, you need to find your “true” speaking voice and speaking pitch. An easy way to do this is to recite something you know well.
Or start singing a familiar tune. Typically wherever you start is going to be the range of your natural speaking voice. Pay attention to the note you start out on and aim to speak mostly in that range.
This is how you discover your natural speaking voice and range.
Now for Step 2.
Lie down and put a ball or pencil on your stomach. Now inhale to the point where the balls rolls off of 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.
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. For instance if the sound resonates in your nose, you will sound nasally.
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 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 it out yourself by holding your hand over your throat while you are talking to see how much vibration is there.
A wonderful visualization technique to use to greatly improve your voice projection is to pretend you need to drive a nail into the wall 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 just becomes, well, 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.