Voice and Public Speaking
by Alex Cosper, February 17, 2020

For anyone who makes their living speaking or wants to improve vocal strength, the top focus should be overcoming fear. According to a Gallup poll, 40 percent of Americans say public speaking is their greatest fear. Channeling energy and proper breathing are a few of the keys to better speaking. Here's a deeper look at becoming an effective public speaker.

Overall of Voice Issues

A primary reason for public speaking problems is social anxiety disorder (SAD), in which individuals have low energy voices. An audience may perceive this effect as shy or anti-social. Other issues that hinder speaking performance are nervousness, a soft voice or a monotone delivery. The ideal speaking voice for holding a crowd's attention is warm, pleasant, authentic, clear and strong. According to a paper published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, speakers are more persuasive by using a slightly louder than normal voice.

Reasons for Voice Issues

At the root of voice issues is a variety of factors such as physically weak vocal cords, a respiratory condition or lack of speaking, which can weaken the voice. Psychological issues such as low self-esteem, anxiety and fear of rejection can also contribute to vocal problems. Someone suffering from anxiety may either speak too fast or have a low monotonous tone. People who come from quiet families that don't speak loudly can be influenced to have softer voices. SomeĀ individuals may speak more softly on purpose to avoid social confrontation. The five primary elements of social motivation mentioned by researchers in the Harvard Business Review are status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness. These elements affect how individuals present themselves in public.

Effects of Not Having a Powerful Voice

- inhibited communication
- audience members can drown out the speaker's voice
- embarrassment due to frequent requests to repeat spoken passages
- perceptions of lower crediblity
- damage to the speaker's self-confidence
- hestitance for the speaker to socialize in the future

Common Voice Levels

Singers fall into a range of a couple dozen voice types, although many people still have unique vocal qualities within these categories. Speaking usually doesn't require as much energy as singing, but both singers and speakers need to learn proper breath control. Breathing the right way not only puts less strain on your voice when raising volume, it's crucial to calming your nerves. Here are four common voice qualities and why they sound the way they do:

- Nasal Voice - high pitched and whiny from talking through the nose
- Mouth Voice - lack of powerful sound due to speaking from the mouth rather than the diaphragm
- Chest Voice - sounds pleasant due to adequate breath control, but needs more air through the lungs from the diaphragm
- Diaphragm Voice - best possible sound commanding the most social attraction due to proper breathing and speaking from the diaphragm

Tips to Improve Your Voice

Both physical and mental abilities influence how well your voice will be heard and enjoyed in a public setting, with or without a microphone. Positioning, proper breathing and positive mindset are essential fundamentals for impressing and captivating an audience.

Here are important tips to keep in mind:

- good posture
- rate of speech (120-160 words per minute is ideal)
- speak from your diaphragm instead of your throat
- vary your pitch to avoid a predictable monotone sound
- use your full range of lip motion to articulate clearly
- modulate your voice with volume variance
- focus more on delivery than content


You don't really have to know about how vocal cords work to have a nice speaking voice, but it helps to understand a few basics that can improve your volume and sound quality.

One of the most powerful concepts you can learn is breathing from your diaphragm below your lungs to push air upward, while relaxing your throat. Massaging your throat or yawning helps loosen your throat. Deep breathing and holding your breath for up to a minute are good ways to prepare for a speech. The person who speaks from their diaphragm has the best chance to be perceived as a promotable leader.

© Alex Cosper. All rights reserved.