Written by Shankar Mahadevan Academy on 05 April 2014
An important aspect of public speaking is a natural, powerful and confident voice. Whether you are an executive called upon to make a presentation, a teacher who needs to get across a new concept to your students or just simply someone who regularly uses their voice in their profession, a powerful speaking voice can prove to be a valuable asset. But unfortunately not many of us are naturally blessed with a ‘public speaker’s voice’ – a voice that not only makes a significant impression on the audience but also effectively gets the message across.
The importance of ‘voice’ in public speaking:
Many of us attribute our public speaking failures to our limited vocabulary, our shyness or our personality. While this may one of the reasons, not many of us realize that ‘voice’ plays a vital role not only in public speaking, but also in molding our overall image and personality. A research study on personality and charisma, conducted by Stanford University concluded that while vocabulary, or the words we say, account for only 7% of the total impression that we make on people, the tonality of voice accounts for a major 38%. The rest was attributed to body language and the way we carry ourselves.
Researchers have identified the most common problems faced by public speakers as (1) they either speak too softly which distracts the audience, or (2) they start loudly but fade as they go along which affects the effectuality of the message. Both these problems can be attributed to the ‘voice’ aspect of public speaking. While there are many techniques to combat the above problems, singing has been found to be very effective tool in improving voice clarity and developing a powerful voice.
The relationship between singing and public speaking:
Singing not only helps open the throat but also induces us to listen to the pitch and rhythm of the sounds we are producing. This makes us more attentive to our speech and voice modulation patterns.
The most common mistake public speakers make is to use their diaphragm rather than their lungs. Regular singing sessions can help correct this problem by helping expand the lung capacity which in turn generates a full and rich voice capable of captivating the audience’s attention. Furthermore, singing also helps boost your confidence levels. Listening to your own voice on a regular basis can be a major confidence building exercise and can help combat stage fear.
Furthermore, singing also helps build up your confidence levels. Listening to your own voice on a regular basis can be a major help in boosting confidence and combating stage fear. Shankar Mahadevan, famous singer, musician and film music composer, who runs an online music academy, has this say on the connection between music and building confidence: “Learning to sing has an amazing effect on increasing a person’s self-confidence level. Many of the students who enrolled for music lessons at my academy said they felt more confident and outgoing than before. Singing gave them the confidence they lacked.”
Cheryl Hodge, head of the vocal department at the Professional Music Department of Selkirk College, located in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada, has compiled a list on the differences between an untrained vocalist and a trained vocalist. Here are a few essential observations she made during her research.
- Tends to breathe into upper chest cavity only. Thus the sound emanating accounts to only 40% of the potential capacity in volume.
- Will feel lots of pressure in front of throat; particularly when singing at the top of the chest range. Sound emanating is harsh and constricted.
- Tends to think up and down throat respectively, to high and low notes. Posture is poor; head moves up to get upper pitches; down to get lower pitches. Both intonation and tone suffer under these circumstances.
- Breathes all the way into the lower lungs, in an easy, effortless way; eventually filling upper lungs (both front & back areas of lungs), as well.
Thus the vocalist gets near 100% sound capacity.
- Will use diaphragm in order to get power, instead of throat, feeling essentially nothing in the front of the throat, since the sound is projected upward, via the back of the body (hence, although the vocal folds are being utilized, they are relaxed ). Sound emanating is open, full, relaxed.
- Tends to think from "behind" the body, using diaphragmatic area projecting sound from behind, combined with relaxed throat and facial areas. Head will not move in any way (staying in line with the base of spine, and erect on shoulders).
What the experts have to say about regular ‘voice training’?
Nancy Daniels, who offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills, stresses the importance of ‘voice training’ in developing a new and improved voice. She says that everyone who wants to work on their ‘voice’, “….. should be looking for your ‘real’ or true voice which, in 99% of the cases, will be deeper in pitch than the voice you have been using out of habit, your habitual one.” And gaining this ‘true voice’, which is essentially ‘deeper in pitch’, can be easily achieved through regular singing exercises.
Most important of all, taking up singing on a regular basis gives the public speaker the practice needed to work on their vocal technique. Cheryl Hodge lists out the benefits gained by those who regularly practice on their vocal techniques. Regular practice is helpful in:
• the prevention of damage to vocal cords, such as nodes (nodules) and polyps
• the inducement of power to project and focus, through proper breathing and development of the diaphragm muscles
• the overall expansion of one's vocal range
• the effective control of speech breaks (which lead to loss of concentration in the audience)
• the development of a richer tone ("placement")
• the maintaining of the developed voice for a longer period of time
• the controlling and differentiating between vibrato and straight tones
How can you change what your ‘voice’ says about you?
Roger Love, leading voice training expert, feels that, “Your voice reveals your true identity to the outside world. It tells people, both directly and indirectly if you are confident, dependable, and intelligent. Or just as powerfully, your voice can make you seem shy, insecure, dumb, drab, and boring. Your voice not only makes you who you are, but also who other people think you are.” This is especially true when it comes to public speaking.
A good way for those interested in developing their public speaking skills is to enroll in regular singing classes. Regular singing classes, especially classical training, can give you the public speaking voice you have always desired. For those who can’t find the time to attend a regular class, The Shankar Mahadevan Academy, offers a good alternative via online singing classes. Classical, Hindustani and Bollywood music can be learnt through self-study OM (online music) books or through expert teachers who conduct online classes that can be scheduled to fit within a customized timeframe. Read more at www.shankarmahadevanacdemy.com.
Did you know that practicing singing not only improves your voice quality when you sing, but that it can also create a powerful public speaking voice?