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SOFT SPEAKER RX:TOP 4 WAYS TO LET YOURSELF BE HEARD
by Susan Berkley. Copyright 2002,
Do people often tell you that they can't hear you or understand what you're saying? You may think it's because you are not speaking loudly enough. But actually, volume may be only part of the problem. I suggest doing a systems check on these four areas:
VOCAL VOLUME LEVEL
THE WAY YOU FEEL ABOUT YOURSELF
There is a difference between not being heard (being inaudible) and not being understood (being unintelligible). Sometimes people confuse the two. Unintelligibility may be caused by problems with articulation and pronunciation. People with poor articulation can sound throaty because their tongue is pulled too far back, or they may sound muffled because they don't move their tongue enough when they speak. Both problems affect our ability to be understood. Make sure your tongue is positioned toward the front of your mouth and that you use your tongue to clearly enunciate your words. For severe articulation problems, consult a licensed speech pathologist.
If you mispronounce your words you will also have a difficult time being understood. Brush up on pronunciation skills by consulting a good pronouncing dictionary. At the Merriam Webster website you can actually hear how many words are supposed to be pronounced in standard American English. Try this cool feature at http://www.m-w.com/
2. CONTROLLING VOCAL VOLUME
Imagine that your voice has a volume knob with five settings:
For normal and healthy conversational speech, do not use volume levels 1 or 5. Both can strain the voice. Yell only in an emergency and save your whispers for the library, theatre or bedroom.
Strive to speak most of the time at volume level 3. Use levels 2 and 3 for color, emphasis and variety. A conversational level will differ with each situation. To be heard it must be adjusted so that we are speaking at a level that is slightly louder than the background noise around us. Obviously, there is much more background noise, for example, in a crowded restaurant than in a quiet conference room.
3. PROJECTING THE VOICE
Volume level should not be confused with projection. To project the voice, don't try to yell or force it out of your body. This causes strain. To have a voice that carries well, you must use your body's natural resonators.
Your body has three resonating cavities: the voice box, the mouth and the nose. The voice is produced at the vocal chords and then amplified in the facial mask around the lips and nose. To have a beautiful voice and project it without strain, you must focus your voice in the facial mask, blending the oral and nasal resonators.
Speech therapist Dr. Morton Cooper says the simplest way to find your facial mask is to hum. Try it now. HMMMMMMMM. Good. Now practice alternating humming and speaking. HMMMMMMy name is Susan. HMMMMMy favorite color is blue. HMMMMany people say I'm a great dancer... etc. Have fun with it. Practice humming and speaking throughout the day. Once you get the hang of what a resonant voice feels like, you can drop the hum and feel the vibration of your words in your facial mask.
4. THE WAY YOU FEEL ABOUT YOURSELF
I have found that there is often a strong psychological component to communication difficulties. Soft speakers may unconsciously be trying to hold themselves back, inhibit their self-expression, or stifle themselves, and these factors should be explored. For more insight on overcoming self-limiting behaviors, I recommend an excellent book called The Origin Of illness by Dr Norberto R. Keppe, available at http://www.analyticaltrilogy.org .
From "The Voice Coach" ezine by Susan Berkley, reprinted with permission. Author of The Voice Coach ezine http://www.greatvoice.com/speaker/thevoicecoach.html, a newsletter that provides tips and techniques for people who want to make a powerful and positive impression every time they speak. Susan is a top voice-over artist and communications expert. A former radio personality (including the Howard Stern Show), Susan's voice has been heard on thousands of TV & radio commercials and telephone lines. You've probably heard her say: "Thank you for using AT&T." Susan is the author of Speak to Influence: How to Unlock the Hidden Power of Your Voice, dozens of published articles, several comprehensive audio tape programs on voice-over careers, and more! Her proven techniques are used by business and sales people, customer service representatives and even medical professionals who use their voices to soothe their patients. Visit www.greatvoice.com for more information.
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