To hold the attention of your audience during a marketing presentation you need great content and a voice that is engaging and easy to listen to, says Andrew Bennett.
How can you develop an expressive, dynamic speaking voice? The secret is in our breathing. We need to find a depth in our breathing to ensure that our voices are supported and nourished by a steady flow of breath.
Here are some tips to bring dynamism to your voice as you present.
Whether seated or standing posture counts. With good posture you’ll achieve the best conditions to take a breath and speak.
If you are standing, your feet should be no more than shoulder-width apart, firmly feeling the ground. Align your posture – you can imagine a line proceeding up your legs, continuing up your spine. Your shoulders will be back and relaxed, with your hands and arms comfortably by your sides. Imagine that your head is crowning your body.
You should have a sense of being alert, active, springy – ready to start talking to your audience.
‘Low rib’ breathing
Maintaining your good, flexible posture place your thumb under your lowest rib at the side of your rib cage (shoulders still back and relaxed). Slowly take a deep breath through your nose, feeling a slight expansion of your rib cage. Then breathe out gently.
You’ll notice the difference from the shallow, high in the chest breath many of us use in everyday life.
Have easy access to drinking water when presenting because your vocal folds (also called vocal cords) only work well when you are hydrated.
Take a low breath, then in your mind count to 5 slowly breathing out gradually: 1 2 3 4 5!
Rest for a moment, then take your ‘low rib’ breath and breathe out counting slowly in your mind to 6 this time.
You can continue all the way up to 10 or eventually beyond. Do 1 or 2 minutes of this type of exercise at a time before taking a pause (you don’t want to get light-headed).
By continuing this exercise over time your body will become accustomed to a more settled, longer span of breathing out. This is important because you need this gentle, flowing span of breath to sustain an expressive, dynamic quality in your voice.
A bonus is that if you feel nervous before a speaking presentation of any kind, an online client call or a conference speech, you will only need to focus on your breathing like this to remind your body of the healthy breathing reflex you have established with the exercise. This will reassure you and you’ll appear poised to your audience.
From breath to speech
Next it is time to transform that breath into words that express your ideas. You can extend your breath span so that even longer sentences can be delivered comfortably without a concern about running out of breath.
I recommend this warmup routine using your settled, flowing breath.
- Set up your good posture, take a low breath then hum a tune. ‘Happy Birthday to You’ works well.
At first, breathe at the end of lines as you need to, but gradually try to do the first two lines in one breath.
- Then, maintaining good, poised posture and ‘low rib’ breath sing out loud with the words.
- Finally say the first few lines of your speech/presentation twice, out loud.
As an alternative to singing, there are tongue twisters and rhymes or that you can use. Here are a couple of examples:
Up the hill and down the vale
Through fell and dale.
He is longing for the rattle of the complicated battle,
The rum tum tum of the military drum
And the guns that go boom boom.
Allow your voice pitch to rise or fall naturally with the meaning of the words.
If you have any physical issues e.g. a back problem, take care and undertake the exercises in the way that is safe for you.
These exercises are excellent preparation for any speaking challenge and your increased vocal dynamism will hold your audience’s attention, your message with land and it will be remembered.
Andrew Bennett is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924. Wisit www.toastmasters.org.