Friday, August 27, 2010

Improving Your Voice

It takes little more than a 10-dollar tape recorder to see that most people aren’t comfortable with their own voices. All your life, you listen to your voice from the inside, where it benefits from the booming resonance of your head. So it’s little surprise that when you record your voice from the outside and play it back, the result is a somewhat tinnier sound.

The resulting insecurity makes some people reluctant to speak up and project their voices in crowded places. It encourages others to retreat into the comfort of mumbles. Fortunately, there’s a solution. A bit of vocal practice can help you unlearn these bad habits and reclaim your voice. In the following sections, you’ll walk through a handful of fun, practical
ways to improve your speaking, whether you’re chairing a company meeting
or cruising a nightclub for a hot hookup.

Get comfortable
If you aren’t comfortable with your voice, no one else will be, either. So start by recording your voice in ordinary conversation and taking a close listen. This process has two key benefits: First, it lets you objectively hear the strengths and weaknesses of your speaking tone, so you can learn to improve it. Second, it helps you get accustomed to hearing your own voice. Over time, this can make you comfortable enough to speak up. You can use the recording trick to help you work alone on the following exercises, or you can team up with a partner and do them together.

The man in the mirror
In your quest to refine your voice, it often helps to work on something that seems unrelated but isn’t—your posture. Speakers who slouch tend to talk downward, take shallow breaths, and lose confidence—all characteristics that rob your voice of its projecting power. To keep an eye on yourself in real time, you can try an old radio trick— speaking in front of a mirror. Then, to boost your speaking energy, practice talking with an absurdly exaggerated grin on your face.

Slow speech
To practice this exercise, read the same paragraph from a book or newspaper several times. Each time, try to speak a little more slowly, while enunciating as clearly as possible (exaggerate if necessary). Continue doing this until you find the absolute slowest speed at which you can speak without sounding like you’re dozing off. Slow speech is a cornerstone of good oratory. Barack Obama has a notoriously relaxed words-per-minute rate, for example. Slow speech helps prevent you from constricting your voice, raising its pitch, or mumbling. A related skill is pausing, which experienced speakers use to shape long speeches into careful paragraphs that allow listeners to follow along easily. Many people who are uncomfortable speaking are even less comfortable pausing. It’s as though they’re afraid to give listeners the chance to reflect on their spotty oratorical skills. If this describes you, practice deliberately holding your pauses for longer than seems natural—say, a five-count.

Serial emphasis
Pick a simple sentence like “I never said he loved the maid.” Repeat the sentence, emphasizing the first word, then the second word, then the third word, and so on. For example, “I never said he loved the maid. I never said he loved the maid. I never said he loved the maid. I never said he loved the maid,” and so on. Exaggerate the difference to dramatize the sentence and change its meaning. This exercise helps boring speakers break out of their lazy monotone and wake up to the power of varied expression. A similar exercise is to take a well-known nursery rhyme and repeat it using different personalities (for example, using a tone that’s angry, delighted, confused, anxious, and so on).

Project the distance
Here’s a good group exercise to try in a large room: Organize people into pairs and arrange them in a circle or two lines so that the partners are facing each other. Ask the partners to have a conversation about something straightforward—for example, their day, current affairs, or a recent movie they saw. As they speak, call out “Back!” every 20 seconds, at which point everyone must take a step back. The challenge is for everyone to continue their conversation without being drowned out or distracted by the other conversations, and without resorting to shouting. (Making sure no one trips over a stray piece of furniture is also a good idea.) At the very end, when the partners are as far away from each other as possible, go through the pairs one by one. Each pair must then rush back together, holding their far-apart volume, and continue to talk for an additional 20 seconds at close proximity. The difference between their starting volume and their new, projected voice will be dramatic.

Source of Information : Oreilly - Your Body Missing Manual

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