Harnessing the Voice

The speaking voice deserves richness and fullness so that its power matches the power of our words, explains Harvard Kennedy School instructor Allison Shapira in the article, Breathing is the Key to Persuasive Public Speaking.

According to Toastmasters International's report Your Speaking Voice: Tips for Adding Strength and Authority to Your Voice, "unless you’ve had voice lessons or athletic training, most likely your breathing is shallow, misdirected, and lacking in control."

The report invites us to look at:
- What type of voice do we have: a whisper or a boom?
- Are we monotonous or melodious?
- What is our voice's emotional color: a rain cloud or a rainbow?
- In our musical speaking voice do we agitate or orchestrate? "A good speaker may use as many as 25 different notes to convey variety and meaning."

The report offers a method for relaxing the voice, promising a richer and more colorful voice with practice.

"Your goal should be vocal efficiency – the production
of maximum vocal output with minimum effort. An
efficient voice is smooth, versatile, and produced with
very little effort."

Toastmasters International report, Your Speaking Voice

Shapira describes how much our breath affects how our voice sounds, not only revitalizing us to calm our nerves but also creating a resonant tone that communicates confidence.

Shapira uses the analogy of sashimi to recommend practicing using the breath to support our words. Take a full breath, and practice exhaling while speaking. "Over time, you can breathe quickly and discreetly between sentences," adding strength to the voice.


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