How to Develop a Better Speaking Voice
The voice is such a powerful tool. Too many of us fail to pay attention to the sound of our voices. We tend to spend too much time thinking about what we are saying, as opposed to how we are saying it. Whether you need to improve your voice on the phone, for other regular work activities, or for public speaking, the following steps will teach you how to bring out the best in you.
Listen to yourself talk. Many people do not like to do this, and they often react by saying: "I hate the way I sound." But, use whatever technical tools you need to take this step. Whether it's a simple recording on a voicemail or answering machine, or something more advanced, you need to hear yourself before you can learn to improve your speaking voice. One trick here: record yourself speaking, but do not listen to it immediately. Wait a day. This advice coming from some of the best talent coaches in the country, who train some very prominent public speakers. You must allow time to separate yourself from whatever you have recorded, so you can be more objective. Record something. Wait a day. Then listen to your voice.
Begin working on the weaknesses you hear. One of the biggest hurdles to hop over, is getting away from that "monotone" delivery. This happens on the phone and speaking to groups. For some reason, we tend to shy away from using inflection. That is because we are trying to sound professional. But, truth be told, your speaking voice will end up sounding flat when you try too hard at this. Use inflection, like you do when you are telling a funny joke, or a really great story. Envision yourself sitting around the dinner table talking to your family. Let your voice go "up" a little during the more exciting parts, like you do in normal conversation. This will keep people engaged when they listen to you.
Learn to warm up your mouth and jaw, just like you warm up muscles for working out. Open your jaw very wide and stretch it, then close, and open and repeat. This will also help relax you. Another good exercise is to loosen up your tongue and vocal chords by using a few little tools learned from well trained talent coaches. If you are driving to a meeting or to give a public speech, repeat this phrase: "Over the lips, the teeth the tongue." Sounds funny, just try it. You will feel it loosen up your mouth. Also stand in front of the mirror and say (opening your mouth nice and wide): "Woo, Whoa, War, Wow." This will also stretch out that mouth and jaw. You don't want to speak when you are all clenched up.
Speak from your gut. You have probably heard that you are supposed to "push from the diaphragm." Same thing. The idea is to pull that voice up from the center of your body, instead of speaking out of your throat. You will find this is easier than you think. All you do is breathe and relax, and speak naturally. You should be able to feel your tummy moving a little (just below your ribs) if you press down on it when you do this. This will give your voice a nice, resonant sound. It will also keep you from getting a sore throat, which is what happens when you push directly from the vocal chords.
Sing. Even if you believe you are a terrible singer, sing anyway. Just be sure and do it when you are alone, so you are comfortable. This will help your inflection and your control more than you can imagine. Public speakers, news anchors, and actors often even take singing lessons to help them learn to control their voices. You don't have to go that far. Just sing to yourself. And don't hold back. Belt it out.
Smile when you talk on the phone. People can "hear" that smile. Avoid trying to imitate someone else's voice that you may really like. Remember, no one can be "you" better than you can. Work with the skills you have, and develop your own style.