When we make a presentation or speak to a large group of people, it’s important to have an authoritative and appealing tone of voice. This will come from the ability to make your voice resonate, as a resonant voice is more pleasing on the ear and can make you sound more confident. This in turn helps the audience relax and enjoy the presentation.
An audience will ‘pick up’ on your voice and respond favourably, potentially affording you a greater deal of respect and attention. Often, the audience won’t know or understand why this is the case, so having the ability to control and improve the way you use your voice can be a useful and powerful skill.
There are practical reasons, too. Using your voice skilfully can stop you getting a sore throat. When we shout, our vocal folds (often known as vocal chords) crash together and become swollen and red, sometimes causing damage. So learning how to use your voice by warming it up will prevent soreness in the throat.
Breath is the power behind the voice, but this is only the start. As we breathe in, our lungs expand. When we speak, the air comes up through the trachea, making the vocal folds (which are situated at the top of the trachea) vibrate. This creates sound. The ability to control the breath is very important and is the basis of all voice work.
We then use the resonators in our throat, nose, mouth and cheek cavities (sinuses) to amplify the sound, and our articulators (tongue, teeth, lips, etc.) to create specific sounds that become understandable words and therefore speech.
However, as with any sport or exercise, it is important to warm up before we start. This means first warming up our body from head to toe before we start to work on our voice.
The most important thing is to learn how to relax and allow yourself to expand and increase your breath capacity. The natural tendency is to breathe only in our upper chest, so learning to breath down into our lower lungs and using the diaphragm properly is the first step. The diaphragm is a muscle separating the thorax from the abdomen – by finding and exercising this muscle, we can learn to better control our breath during speech.
If you want to be heard, you need to learn how to project. Projection comes from taking control of the breath.