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Your Presentation Voice

Ever have a problem with hoarseness?  You don’t have to if you follow these ideas about Your Presentation Voice.

Do you make your business presentations with an easy-listening voice? Does your voice carry clearly to the back row? Without a mike? Are you free of constant “um’s” or “you know’s?” Can you speak all day without strain or hoarseness?

If you answered “no” or “not sure” to any of these questions, you need help with your presentation, or public-speaking, voice.

Voice problems are as common as colds. The difference is: you can cure (and better, prevent) most voice problems

Your natural voice

Pushing your voice to sound higher or lower than suits your body is the source of both harsh sounds and hoarseness. You can even lose your voice! I remember a teacher who always had a sore throat by the end of the week until she started using her natural voice.

If you’ve been using your natural voice all along before starting this exercise, the words will sound in your ear exactly as they always have.

At this point, you can get a speech pathologist (also known as a speech therapist) to help you. Or you can try to remember to do your “ummm, one” exercise each time before you speak until your “new” voice comes automatically.

If you continue to have problems, a visit to an otolaryngologist is called for.

Making yourself heard

Once you’re using your natural voice, you want people to hear you. And you want to be able to speak an entire sentence smoothly, without having to pause for breath. The same technique takes care of both.

I myself used to have trouble singing an entire line in a song because, as I discovered, I wasn’t breathing properly. People may not enjoy listening to me more! But I enjoy singing far more now I’m breathing correctly.

When you were a baby you breathed with your diaphragm. You still do when you’re asleep—or reading the comics, watching TV or relaxing. However, so many of us have allowed tension to rule our bodies we’ve lost the best way to breathe when we start to talk.

Too soft? Booming?

Two more voice problems: voices too soft and too loud.

Just as you learned to speak loud, so can you learn to tone down the volume. Simply being aware of the loudness will often take care of it.

Many too-loud voices, however, result from hearing loss. You talk louder to hear yourself! Anyone who speaks with a very loud voice should get a hearing test from a certified audiologist. If hearing is poor, it can be aided.

Uh, like, you know?

Most speakers are completely unaware of these habits.

The cure? Becoming aware, then practicing. If you’ve rehearsed your material before you stand up in front of the boss or customers, you’re much less likely to fall into this trap.

Sometimes, a listener will respond to continued queries of “you know?” with “no, I don’t know: you tell me.” If you weren’t aware before, you will be after that.

 Your effective voice forever


Communication consultant Priscilla Richardson speaks & trains on taming the fear monsters of business writing & public speaking. For more information on how she can help your business or association reach greater productivity, email her at

Copyright 2000 All rights reserved.   Priscilla Richardson

You are free to use any of this material in whole or in part as long as you include complete attribution, including live web site link and email link. Please also notify me where the material will appear.

It takes concentration and practice and time to master all of the techniques of a good business presentation voice. The rewards, however, are many: Self confidence, warmer acceptance by others, and, just maybe—winning that contract.Stuttering can be a real problem for a presenter, and often the only help for it is professional attention. Now don’t let a little bit of occasional stuttering worry you. It happens to me when I’m answering questions. While a poised pause for collecting my thoughts would sound better, I don’t always remember to do that. Nobody’s perfect.Nothing drives an audience crazier than a presenter who continually uses “uh” or asks “you know?” The only good way to see if you offend with either of these (or similar ones, such as “ah,” “ummm” or “like”) is to listen to yourself on a tape recording. If your voice booms out so loud that it carries over every other sound, you may simply have come from a family of very loud speakers. What if your voice is always markedly very soft and “breathy?” If these voice and breathing tips here don’t help, you probably need professional help. Look for a certified speech pathologist to help you.Breathing from your diaphragm combined with your natural voice will let you speak to fifty or more listeners without using a microphone or straining. The reason? You’re using your diaphragm to push your voice out, not your throat.Put your hand on your diaphragm—it’s just under your chest, above your belly button—and take in a good deep breath. Now as you exhale, see how long you can speak. (Or sing. Singing lessons start with breathing lessons, as I discovered.)That breathing technique is: use your diaphragm, not your chest. This is something else totally natural. Warning! If you haven’t been using your natural voice your “new” voice will sound very strange to you. But as you use your “new” voice it ought to leave you with much less strain and hoarseness after you’ve been talking a lot. That’s proof you’ve hit on your natural voice. If they sound different, either higher or lower or just funny, you probably haven’t been using your natural voice. Now, without changing the tone, say a word, “one.” Then speak a sentence on that same tone. To get to your natural voice, just hum a tone that’s comfortable, to the sound of “ummm.” Try it now. “Ummm.”Back to voices. The first step for anyone who needs to speak in business, over the telephone, one-on-one, or to gatherings—for everybody!—is to find your natural voice.

WANT MORE FREE HELP? Go to the back issues of Communication Insights for timely short tips & action plans on communication topics.

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