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Public Speaking Tip : On Resonance, Projection, and Articulation

Updated on August 4, 2017

Tom at his Storytelling Workshop on 19th February 2011

It's nice to be promoted.  This poster was made up and presented to me by a very good friend.   He calls me the 'Prince of Storytellers.'
It's nice to be promoted. This poster was made up and presented to me by a very good friend. He calls me the 'Prince of Storytellers.'

The four ways people judge us.

Welcome to Publc Speaking Tips: On Resonance, Projection, and Articulation.

When we meet a stranger, or even see them enter on stage to talk to us, there are only four ways in which we can judge them. And judge them we do, quite mercilessly and almost at a subconscious level. These four ways are: how they look; what they do; what they say, and how they say it. This hub will deal fairly briefly with the last two of these. In other words, ‘What we are hearing.’ I’m assuming here, of course, that you are not deaf hearing-impaired in any way and can hear the speaker as he or she actually sounds to your ‘healthy’ ear.

How our voice sounds to others is very important.

As I said in another Speaking Tip Hub, the image of the sophisticated, well-groomed – and expected to be intelligent and articulate speaker – is often shattered once that person opens his or her mouth to speak. What they say and how they sound is so important that one’s hopes of hearing something useful or entertaining is often dashed by our conditioning of what we regard as well spoken and pleasant-sounding language. We abhor the whining voice, the mumbler, the dialect we cannot understand.

Yours truly addressing around forty workshop participants.

I'm cheating here.   I was fitted out with a lapel mic.
I'm cheating here. I was fitted out with a lapel mic.

Our success is life is often dependent upon how we sound.

This Hub is not about developing a good, useful ‘working’ or oral vocabulary- though that is very important. Here, instead, I shall talk about how the voice sounds. For a person’s normal speaking voice can be so important as to make or break their success. Moreover, this applies not only to one’s prowess as a public speaker, trainer, or coach, but right across the whole gamut of one’s life. How we sound is that important! People judge us by it.

Speaking Tips: Resonance, Projection, and Articulation.

Around thirty years ago I had in my possession a book title: Bell’s Standard Elocutionist. I made the mistake of lending it to someone. No, I never got it back. Now, I believe it is in the ‘Rare Books’ selection on the Internet and to obtain a copy would cost a small fortune. I studied that book. Learned its lessons well, and so developed a good speaking voice. At least, that’s what I’ve been told.

Yes, they like what I'm telling them.

But then again...everyone loves a good story...
But then again...everyone loves a good story...

Twelve minutes a day can make all the difference.

A year or so back I purchased a far later book on the use of the voice. This one is called ‘How To Say It with Your Voice, by Jeffrey Jacobi. It sat on my bookshelves for some time. But about a month ago I picked it up and started to look at its contents a little more seriously. In it, Jacobi presents, among a lot more very useful information, a series of voice exercises that can be carried out in as little as twelve minutes a day. These exercises will turn the badly used voice into one that is optimum for the natural use of its owner. I’ve been practicing these exercises and find that they do work.

Proper exercise can help you avoid voice strain - so exercise it!

It’s not my intention to tell you exactly what this twelve-minute exercise regime comprises, but one is, of course, the good old use of humming. Yes, humming. But humming in such a way that the lips vibrate. That’s an earlier step. Eventually humming will lead you to develop a much more resonant voice that can reach well into its natural lower levels. This humming not only vibrates the lips, but the head, neck, shoulder and torso, once one begins to become more accomplished at it. It also goes a long way to reducing voice strain.

So resonance is one ingredient of the pleasant-sounding voice.

My view of part of the audience.

As usual, people are so often frightened to sit in the front row.
As usual, people are so often frightened to sit in the front row.

Learn to project right to the back of the room.

Power, is another. And a voice can be developed to become powerful, with wonderful projection. You may have been to a live play and noticed how the actors can project right to the back of the hall without any hint of having to shout or strain. This is good projection. Something else you need to learn if you wish to be at your best as a speaker.

Speaking Tips: Read like you're telling them a story.

Then there is articulation. Articulation exercises are provided in Jeffrey Jacobi’s book. And, of course, there are probably many books on Speech Therapy that contain such exercises. However, if you don’t have immediate access to such a book and wish to get in some articulation exercises particularly applicable to the public speaker, trainer, or coach – read out loud.

I’ll repeat that: Read out loud. Read as if you were reading for a listener other than yourself; as if you were endeavoring to have that listener understand ever word you say. And read it in a interesting manner, as if you were telling them a story – as well you might be. Ten to twenty minutes of reading out loud every day will help you become very accomplished at delivery, for it involves not only good enunciation but timing.

Tom out front running a workshop

A good audience, with plenty of friends.
A good audience, with plenty of friends.

If you want to improve the way others regard you, improve your voice.

As I said at the outset, there are four ways in which we are judged when we are seen for the first time and, remember, first impressions are not easily changed. They are: how we look, what we do, what we say and how we say it. If you want to improve the way you are immediately regarded: work on your voice.

So, to recap: Develop resonance with humming exercises. Develop your power with projection exercises and, last but not least, develop you pronunciation, enunciation and timing with articulation exercise.

I hope you got something out of Speaking Tips: On Resonance, Projection and Articulation.



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