The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking

Part Three of Three: How to Create Vocal Resonance

©Laura Handke, 2017

You’ve worked up the courage to give a speech. You’ve written, edited, and re-edited. You’ve rehearsed until you don’t want to listen to your own speech one more time. You’re at the podium, breathing deeply, which calms your nerves and lessens the shaking of your hands. You open your mouth, and…wonder where your voice went.

What you hoped would be a roar is more like a squeak. You can see people leaning in, straining to hear you, at the back of the room. You would like to be hauled out of there with a hook, like in an old vaudeville act.

What happened? You didn’t notice this pitiful, stuck-behind-the-podium, voice while rehearsing in the privacy of your living room with Betty the Boxer dog. Betty heard you just fine, and, in fact, barked her approval. Not one growl did Betty give.

The culprit here may just be a lack of resonance in your voice.

One of the most naturally resonant voices I’ve ever heard belongs to James Earl Jones. (Oh, how the memories are flooding in from 1980’s Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. “No, I am your father.” Now you know my age bracket! Fun fact: it really is “No,” instead of “Luke.”)

We may not all have been born with voices as resonant as James Earl Jones. Yet regardless of our body structure and voice type, we can all create resonance in our voices.

Resonance is that deep, full, reverberating characteristic which allows your voice to carry and be heard at the back of the room, even without a microphone.

Picture, as best you can, the inside of your skull and nasal cavities. They provide a space for sound to bounce around in. Train yourself to aim your voice into that “mask” or “buzzy spot.”

Close your mouth tightly, and say, “Mmmm,” like a cow would. You should feel vibrations inside your mouth and nasal cavities. You want this, as a speaker or performer. Open your mouth now, say, “My,” and exaggerate the vibrating tone; be overly nasal, like a Brooklynite, like Fran Drescher in The Nanny.

You get that feeling, right? Perfect.

Now, I don’t want you to stand up in front of your audience and try and fake a Brooklyn accent. (Unless you are, of course, from Brooklyn, in which case you should milk it for all it’s worth.)

What I do want you to do is get used to the feeling of projecting your voice into that buzzy spot so your voice will carry, and you’ll be heard at the back of the room. Say “back of the room” with a nasal tone right now. Doesn’t that feel good? Yes, it does! And resonance also helps singers stay on pitch.

Warm up before you go on stage by using M (Money is always good) and N (Naaa) words, while projecting into the buzzy spot.

People need to hear what you have to say…otherwise you wouldn’t be drawn on stage, even if it’s behind the podium, in the first place.

Avoid glottal onsets. Breathe starting with your nose and belly, not the upper chest. Aim your voice into the buzzy spot so you can be heard. Speak with resonance and passion, with healthy vocal technique! Your throat will thank you, and so will your audience.

Speak with power and confidence; be remembered and be inspirational. 

HONE Your Message is coming to Toastmasters for Speaking Professionals October 17th. Stay tuned for details.

If peaceful conflict resolution is in your wheelhouse, come to the Oregon Mediation Associations’ 31st Annual Conference November 3rd & 4th in Portland, where I will be presenting HONE Your Message.

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentically Yours, Laura