How to improve a soft spoken voice?

Hi all!
I recently received some feedback that I have a soft voice. I facilitate meetings often and I notice that when the group has to discuss something and then come back to attention, it is challenging for me to reel them back in- they can't hear me when I begin talking. I have used a hand signal and also ringing a chime, but it feels a bit ridiculous and "teachery" to use with adults. Any advice on how to improve my voice projection? I want to have an engaging voice that keep listeners tuned in during presentations (or anytime for that matter!)
Thanks for your input!
Tamara

How to improve a soft spoken voice?

I'm going to start with a very simple one: have you practiced speaking louder?

Projecting your voice does require practice.

How to improve a soft spoken voice?

Ha! Yes, I have. I am an assistant principal, so I do get the opportunity to use a louder voice with a few "naughty" children. It is easier for me to use it in a small space, like my office. When I get in larger spaces, using that same voice basically means I am yelling to my staff - not very conducive to the rapport I am trying to build with them! :wink: I recently found a book/DVD program about finding your "dynamic voice" and the before and after videos of people who have used it are impressive. I am also looking to join Toastmasters in the near future.

How to improve a soft spoken voice?

Toastmasters is good.

Try speaking from your gut, projecting your voice from your body. Don't think of your voice as coming from your mouth, but from your lower lungs. It sounds strange, but it works for many people.

Don't shout. It's a "full voice" effect you're looking for.

One really nice side effect of speaking in a full voice - kids will react strongly to you on those occasions when you lower your voice! And you won't risk being thought angry, but firm.

John

How to improve a soft spoken voice?

yes, we definitely do not want you shouting at your coworkers. We're looking for something in the middle, where everyone in a room of 15 people can hear you if you are seated at one end of the room.

A good speaker will be able to adjust their voice projection so they can be comfortably heard in a 4 person group or in a 40 person group. It's a combination of confidence, tone, and volume. As John said, it's a "full voice" you are after.

Toastmasters is a huge help. They will give you a lot of opportunities to practice.

How to improve a soft spoken voice?

Having had a bit of theater training, one trick I've learned is to think that my voice must echo off the back wall of the room. In order to do that, you must pitch it lower... deliberately, until it is a bit of a strain (but in the opposite direction than what you would use to yell).

Your breaths also matter... you must breathe deeper if you want your voice to carry.

I have the opposite problem from yours, my voice carries even when I am not trying to be heard louder, so your results may not be as "loud" as mine, but I think you'll find improvement.

Some singing lessons (opera / classical) may help.

How to improve a soft spoken voice?

I was just going to suggest using the theatre!

Do you have an auditorium in your school? If so, perhaps you can have a friend first sit a few rows back and you can stand on stage and have them tell you when they can hear you. Then, have them keep moving back a few more rows. I think that might help you be aware of your diaphram and how to control it (and therefore project).

How to improve a soft spoken voice?

I used to have a similar problem.

Before you are going to be in front of the group, on your way to work, sing in the car. Try to be as loud as you can.

Like any other muscles, you have to work them to get stronger.

dk

How to improve a soft spoken voice?

One of my bosses threw a chair through a wall. The chair leg poked through the wallboard right over my desk. He did this while projecting his voice rather loudly. I think that he got his point across and was impossible to ignore.

Dont' do that....LOL :roll:

This thread for some reason fired that neuron in my head...Please forgive me, I only have a few...LMAO Ahh, memories...

How to improve a soft spoken voice?

Tamara: Move closer.

When you're trying to get their attention to come back in, walk to the "middle" of as many of them as you can, and start talking. Then, as you're talking (or better yet, as they're responding), return to the front of the room.

Changing location gets peoples' attention.

-Hugh

How to improve a soft spoken voice?

I was going to say singing lessons too... I had heard for years in speech classes, "use your diaphragm!" but only THOUGHT I understood it until I took one semester of voice and the instructor demonstrated it and explained the anatomy, what the diaphragm muscle had to do.

I remember also something about how the instinctive way we try to get louder is to force air harder through the vocal cords, but that is the fast track to straining your voice. The key is to keep the vocal cords relaxed as if you're speaking normally but employ the diaphragm muscle and more of your lung volume. Then the voice carries without sounding like you're shouting.

But it's much easier to grasp if you can find someone to demonstrate it and work with you on it. You MIGHT find someone in Toastmasters who really understands it, depends on the group I imagine.

How to improve a soft spoken voice?

BLUF: The diaphragm is an involuntary muscle. You can control your diaphragm as much as you can control your heart.

You CAN control how large of a breath you take in before you speak. Try to focus on two things. First, concentrate on taking in more wind before your speak. Good posture, low shoulders and a relaxed mid-section will allow for this (concentrating on your diaphragm actually INCREASES the tension in your mid-section). You can increase your lung capacity with practice and your voice will become louder as your ability to use more wind increases.

Second, once you have filled your lungs with wind, do not pause before you begin to speak (this is more difficult than it seems). Closing and re-opening your wind pipe with two lungs full of air will put a strain on your vocal chords. Picture a golf swing, with the back-swing as the breath in and the swing the breath out. A good golfer does not pause at the top of the backswing. There are many medical devices to help you with this, but a very inexpensive option is a piece of PVC tubing one inch in diameter and two inches long. Hold this between your teeth as you breathe in and out and it will help you keep your wind pipe open as your breathe.

I was a semi-professional tuba player and am currently a professional speaker (not sure which requires more hot air!). Breathing properly has paid my bills.

Bob

How to improve a soft spoken voice?

[quote="cb_bob"]BLUF: The diaphragm is an involuntary muscle. You can control your diaphragm as much as you can control your heart. [/quote]

Bob,

The diaphragm normally behaves involuntarily, but can be consciously controlled. Otherwise we couldn't hold our breath!

Viz.: http://biology.clc.uc.edu/courses/bio105/muscles.htm
http://www.yorku.ca/earmstro/res/qanda.html

How to improve a soft spoken voice?

I am a member of Toastmasters and that helps with the speaking, but not really the details. It's mostly just a place to practice and get feedback.

I also took singing lessons for the purpose of improving my voice. That was very helpful. I don't use what I learned most of the time, but I know that if I need to I can project myself and speak loudly. Most of what I learned has to do with breathing, taking proper deep breaths, and how to make your voice resonate by using your mouth and face. What my teacher always told me is pretend you have a tennis ball in your mouth, and when I did my voice became very deep and had a great timbre to it.

[quote="terrih"]I was going to say singing lessons too... I had heard for years in speech classes, "use your diaphragm!" but only THOUGHT I understood it until I took one semester of voice and the instructor demonstrated it and explained the anatomy, what the diaphragm muscle had to do.

But it's much easier to grasp if you can find someone to demonstrate it and work with you on it. You MIGHT find someone in Toastmasters who really understands it, depends on the group I imagine.[/quote]

How to improve a soft spoken voice?

[quote="HMac"]Tamara: Move closer.

When you're trying to get their attention to come back in, walk to the "middle" of as many of them as you can, and start talking. Then, as you're talking (or better yet, as they're responding), return to the front of the room.

Changing location gets peoples' attention.

-Hugh[/quote]

Great advice - one that works with students in the classroom, too. We hold our staff meetings in the school library and inevitably, they fill up from the back tables forward (reminds me of church!). Maybe I should really shake things up and present from the back, where they are all sitting anyway!
You all are great! Thanks for the help and insight!
~Tamara

How to improve a soft spoken voice?

[quote="hexemom"] Maybe I should really shake things up and present from the back, where they are all sitting anyway!
[/quote]

In the US, the back of the room ALWAYS fills up before the front. Some facilitators try various tricks - like not placing workbooks and other materials in the back rows - or by straight out asking people to move forward. I've personally chosen not to fight human nature.

I move to various places in the room while presenting - just as a way to change things up and give a little energy. Sometimes my "default" position becomes the second or third row - so I'm closer to where everybody is sitting.

Always start at the front, and stay there for a little while - you never know if you're going to get a bunch of late arrivers. Then, as things settle in, use more of the room for yourself.

-Hugh

Find your "Eigenton" first

I once took voice training. The most surprising element was the discovery that before trying to speak louder or deeper or fuller or whatever, you should understand what is "your natural voice". That´s the voice that corresponds to the build of your speaking apparatus, your resonance bodies etc. They use a German word for this, which means "owned tone" or so.

The trainer had several ways to find out:

1. The group. The group was totally in agreement in identifying when you spoke in your "Eigenton", and when not. People know instinctively when you deviate from your Eigenton. If you do, it transmits tension to the listener. If you speak with your own voice, you are relaxed.

2. An electronic device which could vary your recorded voice and give you an impression how you sound with your real voice. This gave the trainees an opportunity to figure our for themselves what the group could hear naturally.

3. Physical exercises in relaxation, breathing etc.

Once you speak in your own voice, it´s amazing how you will relax automatically, as person when speaking. That´s because you will have lost the muscular stress in the larynx and then, in your whole body. Then people will listen to you. They wont listen as well to a fake voice.

Even singers take this kind of speech training to be able to sing clearly.

By the way: as German, I notice that American speakers very often speak with an artificially deep voice, which reduces the fullness and sonority. Must be something having to do with showing off masculinity and superiority - sorry for my generalisation :-)

Cheers