When you are new to public speaking you often think about the act of standing on stage and delivering your presentation, you often focus on the visual aids or your own nerves, on your body language or on your audience.
The truth is, though, that the most important element of any speaking event is your voice. This is so obvious that it often gets overlooked!
For any speaker, understanding how their voice works, how to exercise it and how to get the best from it, is critical. That’s where voice coaching can really help. This is the process of getting to know your own voice, learning about the mechanics of speaking … and putting the two together to have the maximum possible impact when speaking.
Vocal coaching can seem a mysterious process to many, and people are often nervous to begin. Perhaps it’s all those visions of repeating “how now brown cow” in a plumy accent, but people seem to think of voice coaching as a prescriptive thing. It’s not.
A good vocal coach won’t teach you a whole new way of speaking. They will show you how to make your own voice the best it can be. Audiences respond to authenticity. There is no point in learning how to speak like a 1930s newsreader – that will be a big turn-off!
So vocal coaching is at its best when it is personalised. The 3 basics are pretty straightforward,: slow down, speak up, enunciate. How we get to that is where the magic lies.
Getting to know your voice is a hugely powerful tool when learning to speak well. Your voice coach will suggest you record yourself in a variety of contexts. How we hear our own voice is distorted through the bones of our skull, so coming to know how others hear us is key.
Equally crucial is getting to know our voice in different contexts: formal speaking, sure, but also phone conversations – informal, conversational styles often go down well with audiences.
Yes, there will probably be voice exercises. OK, maybe there might even be a focus on diction. Put out of your mind, though, all those scenes from The King’s Speech … and think instead about how your own voice can make the best possible impact.
Because achieving that is what vocal coaching 101 is all about.