In the previous unit, we discussed using your body in ways that convey a positive, confident message to your listeners. In this unit, we’ll be looking at how to use your voice to further convey confidence, but also to add clearness and emphasis! We will look at two points in this unit: clarity and volume.
The first point to remember is to speak clearly. While this sounds easy, it is actually difficult even for native English speakers for many reasons. Two common reasons are: 1) people get nervous when they’re speaking, and 2) people think faster than they speak. In both cases, words come out too quickly, and words become connected, and sentences eventually blend into each other. It is important to pronounce each word carefully and speak slowly (but not too slowly!), and don’t worry about “sounding fluent” (for non-native speakers) or “sounding persuasive” (two misconceptions about speaking quickly).
The second point to remember, particularly when speaking in a room full of people, is to speak at a level that is louder than your regular speaking voice. Many people become nervous when they speak, especially when they speak in front of an audience, and do not project their voice loud enough to be heard by everyone.
Fortunately, overcoming this speaking issue is pretty easy! First, make sure your posture is correct (from Unit 1). Next, use more air to make your voice louder—not screaming or shouting, but speaking with a stronger, louder tone than you normally would. Practice now: Say “hello” in your regular voice, and then say it again while sitting or standing straight and using more air to make your voice louder. Your second “hello” should sound more deeper and stronger, which helps make you seem surer of what you’re saying.
Lastly, the only way to become better at something is to practice, so you have to make many opportunities to speak in front of people. This might be easier for some people, but for those who are shy or timid, it may take more time. Stand in front of a mirror (or face a partner) and practice saying words or expressions over and over. For speeches, memorizing a speech is good practice, but requires more work involving intonation and gestures—two strategies that we’ll look at in the next couple of chapters.
Take turns standing in front of the class. Check your posture (Unit 1), and practice saying the following in a loud, slow, clear voice:
“Good morning. My name is ___________________________________________________________.
I’m a student at _________________________________________________________________________.
My major is _____________________________________________________________________________.
My hobby is _____________________________________________________________________________.
You do not have to memorize these sentences, and are free to add more information about yourself (for example, the area you live and your desired job after graduating university). The focus should be on posture and voice intonation, volume, and clarity.