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Effective Speaking

The sound of a voice and the content of speech can provide clues to an individual's emotional state and a dialect can indicate their geographic roots.  The voice is unique to the person to whom it belongs.  For instance, if self-esteem is low, it may be reflected by hesitancy in the voice, a shy person may have a quiet voice, but someone who is confident in themselves will be more likely to have command of their voice and clarity of speech.

Aspects of Effective Speaking

Effective speaking has nothing to do with the outdated concept of 'elocution' where everyone was encouraged to speak in the same 'correct' manner.  Rather, effective speaking concerns being able to speak in a public context with confidence and clarity, whilst at the same time reflecting one's own personality.
 

Aspects of effective speaking include:

  • Accents.
  • Finding your voice.
  • The effect of breath on voice and speech.
  • Vocal production

Try recording your own voice in an informal setting, like at home.  Listen carefully to how you sound in order to become accustomed to your own voice. You might also note any aspects of your speech which reduce the overall effectiveness of your message.

 

An exercise to help develop your effective speaking skills:

 

Find a document to read, something about two pages in length - the first few pages of a book would work well. 

Read your document through silently first, then read it aloud in your normal speaking voice.  Don't worry if you stumble or falter, just pick up and continue to the end. 
Now read it a third time, recording your voice if possible and remember:

  • Slow down: It is a natural reaction to want to get it over as fast as possible and this often causes people to stumble over their words.  Speeding up also occurs when you are nervous and usually makes you more difficult to understand.
     
  • Keep your head up: Try not to tuck your chin into the book as your voice is then addressing the floor.  Hold your book higher and project your voice.
     
  • Pause occasionally: Let the end of a sentence or the end of a paragraph give you a chance of a small, two or three second rest.  Pauses can be useful for emphasis.

 

Practise this exercise as often as you can.


Your voice can reveal as much about your personal history as your appearance. 

The sound of a voice and the content of speech can provide clues to an individual's emotional state and a dialect can indicate their geographic roots.  The voice is unique to the person to whom it belongs.  For instance, if self-esteem is low, it may be reflected by hesitancy in the voice, a shy person may have a quiet voice, but someone who is confident in themselves will be more likely to have command of their voice and clarity of speech.
 

This page can help you understand and utilise the full potential of your voice.

Aspects of Effective Speaking

Effective speaking has nothing to do with the outdated concept of 'elocution' where everyone was encouraged to speak in the same 'correct' manner.  Rather, effective speaking concerns being able to speak in a public context with confidence and clarity, whilst at the same time reflecting one's own personality.
 

Aspects of effective speaking include:

  • Accents.
  • Finding your voice.
  • The effect of breath on voice and speech.
  • Vocal production.

Accents

Regional and ethnic accents are positive; they are part of individual personality. 

Gradually, over the years, through the migration of people and exposure to the media, they are being broken down and neutralised.  In some ways this is a shame because accents can add a dimension and distinctiveness to voice and emphasise individuality.
 

It is important to get used to the sound of your own voice.  Most people are more relaxed in a private situation, particularly at home, where there are no pressures to conform to any other social rules and expectations.  This is not the case in public situations when there are all sorts of influences exerted upon the way people speak.
 

Try recording your own voice in an informal setting, like at home. 
Listen carefully to how you sound in order to become accustomed to your own voice.  You might also note any aspects of your speech which reduce the overall effectiveness of your message. 

Often people don’t like the sound of their own recorded voice – in the same way that some people don't like photographs of themselves - they can feel embarrassed. Most of us are not used to hearing our own voices and these feelings are totally normal. Get past the initial, ‘Do I really sound like that?’ stage and develop a better understanding of your voice.

 

When relaxed you will feel more confident, therefore by listening to your voice at home you will have an idea of how you sound to other people.  Although you cannot hear your voice in the same way that others hear you, you can develop an awareness of its impact on others.  Understanding the physical nature of your voice will give you more control over the way that you use it.
 

Individuals are all used to using language in an informal way in their everyday lives, but as soon as a hint of formality is suggested, they can become self-conscious and seize up.  This becomes especially obvious when speaking in front of strangers in a public setting.  The more you get used to the sound of your voice functioning in a slightly more formal way, the easier it is when doing it 'for real'.  In conversational mode, individuals tend to speak in short phrases, a few at a time.  Reading aloud helps you to become used to the more fluent sound of your voice.

The Effect of Breath on Voice and Speech

The voice is responsive to emotions and sometimes gets 'blocked', which can prevent or hinder the expression of a range of feelings.  However, it is possible to use physical exercise to help produce a more flexible voice, in the same way that people who use vocal sounds professionally take lessons, to ensure that their voices are kept in a versatile condition and ready to vocalise a range of sounds.


When under stress an individual's breathing pattern will change.  When your muscles are tense you cannot use your lungs to their full capacity, when a person is frightened or nervous, a common symptom is tension in the neck and shoulders.  This occurs because, when under pressure, over-breathing tends to occur.  Plenty of air is inhaled, but with fast breathing there is not enough time to exhale and relax.

Breathing Exercise

  • Stand in an easy position with your feet one pace apart, with the knees ‘unlocked’ and not rigidly pushed back.  Keep spine straight, head balanced and face muscles relaxed.
  • Breathe in to a slow count of three, then out to a slow count of three.
  • Try not to raise your shoulders as you breathe.  Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Consciously think of your breath 'filling down' to the bottom of your lungs.
  • Put the palm of your hand flat against your abdomen and feel the movement.  Push slightly against your hand as you breathe in and out.
  • Repeat this exercise ten times.

Depending on how you feel after several days of doing this exercise, extend the count of the out-going breath from three to four, five and six gradually building up to ten before you need to take another breath.  Then count out loud on the out-going breath from one to ten. Repeat five times.

Vocal Production

The following three core elements of vocal production need to be understood for anyone wishing to become an effective speaker:

  • Volume  -  to be heard.
  • Clarity  -  to be understood.
  • Variety  -  to add interest.





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