I get it. When you’re pressed for time and need to meet a deadline, the delivery of what you’re saying and how your voice sounds and feels may not make it to the top of your to-do list.
That’s why I’m sharing my favorite tricks for quickly putting those polished touches on your next big presentation or speech.
(As a voice coach and someone who has devoted their career to studying the voice, I’ll always be an advocate for doing a deep dive into voicework if you have the resources and time, but these ideas will carry you through and enhance your ideas in a pinch!)
1. Don’t underestimate the power of a well-timed...pause. (That wasn't one of them!)
Especially when nerves are spiking, we all tend to rush through our words and talking points. If you notice yourself slipping into this, find key places between your ideas to pause for a moment. This will give you time to take a breath, notice the room and give your audience a hot moment to process and think about the content.
Rushing can also be a sign your nervous system could use some support, and you may benefit from finding actions and activities that bring you back to a more centered and settled feeling. This could include external orientation exercises, humming, bilateral movement such as swinging the arms, or taking a break and doing something that fills your cup and brings you joy. (A different kind of pause–and equally beneficial for the voice!)
2. Engage your senses as you speak.
Part of what makes a compelling storyteller is how they seem to infuse the words with their own authentic feelings and meaning. One way to begin to capture this quality for yourself is to imagine the sensory details of the people, places, and things you are talking about as you speak. You don't have to overdo it or make it overly dramatic. If you are going on the journey of your story, paying attention to the experience and allowing it to affect you, the listener will have the opportunity to experience it along with you.
3. Are you using technical jargon, company names, or talking about complex subject matter? Slow down these words and sections.
Complicated words and ideas take longer for us to hear and digest, so don’t be afraid to slow these items down as you speak. Repeat them if necessary, especially if you want your audience to remember them. Lean into your consonants on these words, so that each one is clear and understandable.
4. Variety is your friend.
Change is intriguing to our brains and it can go a long way in holding your audience’s attention. Find subtle ways to vary the tempo, pitch, and volume of your delivery. Less is more here and a little goes a long way.
5. Warm up before you speak.
Speaking is not solely an intellectual skill–we sometimes gloss over the fact that it is a complex motor skill. Your voice is created by the intricate coordination of multiple systems and dozens of muscles in your body. Even a few short minutes of using your voice and body in focused and energetic ways will make a huge difference in how this coordination plays out and thus how your voice sounds, feels, and functions while you're delievering your important ideas and content.
Not sure what to do to warm up your voice before you speak? Then come get some ideas and join for our monthly Q&A + Vocal Warm-up. I’ll answer all your questions about voice coaching and lead you through a 15-minute Vocal Warm-up that will give you some ideas to add to your own pre-speech routine.