Once upon a time in a land far away, public speakers learnt the great art of projecting their voices. It was before amplification, yet some could fill those colosseums just with their lungs. Later the theatres and churches would respond to the sound of a single voice, clear and loud. They had learnt how to use their vocal instrument to the fullest, with great effect. Over the centuries and particularly since the modern era of electrical amplification, much of this potential has been put on ice. No longer do we make a connection between presenting and the need for volume in their voice.
Now I know that most of us will never need to fill a great hall with nothing but our own voice, but there is still something super important about using volume when I stand up to present.
In workshops I often get people to walk to the front of the room and present a short sentence so that we can calibrate the volume (and speed) of their voice. In most cases I’m encouraging people to find a slightly louder voice. If you imagine a ‘Marshall guitar amp’ volume knob; which goes from 0 to 11, I’m often asking people to up their output by at least a couple of points. The impact is amazing. This slight increase feels so much more confident, so much more commanding and capable.
At no point do we need to shout, just use our voice to ‘present’. It might be helpful to think about ‘filling the room’ with sound. Unless you are in a big hall, imagine that your voice needs to fill every corner of the room – every wall, the ceiling, the floor, and right up into every corner of the room.
It helps to breath well, right from the pit of our diaphragm muscle, rather than breathing in our chest. Like any wind instrument, the volume of air is the thing that makes the difference with volume. The voice is no different. When you begin to present, pause, take a deep breath; and start with a confident strong voice. Keep your pace a little slower too so that you can focus on giving the words full due, rather than a quiet rushed tone.
Give it a try, I guarantee that you can be much louder than you think before it becomes over done. So practice giving a good volume and build up an understanding of what level works well for you personally. Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues what they thought, feedback will only help you to refine the perfect presentation level.
The likely outcome; everyone will be amazed at how confident you sound and appear, no matter what nerves maybe hidden under the surface.
PS: There’s more on this topic in episode 29 of Squeeze.