The Messengers

Who were the messengers in your life!

My life is an open book, and in that book, there are many chapters. And the chapter I have chosen to address today is the one I call the Messengers. I decided on that chapter because I believe the Messengers in our lives are everywhere – and they will appear to guide us when we listen to their message, to take our leap of faith. However, as one of my friends Andy, warned – taking your leap of faith can sometimes earn you the best of friends or your worse enemies.

So today, I ask you to take a moment to recall a time in your life when you felt lost. Do you remember how you came to be found?  You were praying for a messenger when your life was a mess. Do you remember standing at your fork in the road, struggling to decide which way to turn? Who was that special someone who appeared to point you in a direction? Was that special someone your messenger?

In my Messengers chapter, I recalled them all. However, there is one who appeared in my adult life that I will never forget because of his message. And I hope that his message will also resonate with you and yours. It was the 1990s. Back then, I managed a team of support engineers. Our company was in crisis. We were all worried about the future. Should I take my leap of faith like my friends and colleagues? That was my burning question.

A problem solver was brought in to analyze the situation. His name was Russell. That day he introduced himself to us as Russ. His simple rustic look initially struck me as odd. Jokingly, the name Rusty popped into my head when we first met, and it stuck. He struck me as someone who had lived many different lives. And I would soon discover that I was right. Rusty would later impress upon me the true meaning of what it takes to be a sage.

He had just returned from South Africa from a significant assignment – transitioning Nelson Mandela from prison life back to society. Mandela had spent twenty-seven years of his life in prison. Russ was a psychologist and trainer with a major oil company. His expertise was working with managers and executives to sniff out the “whys” that were causing problems within an organization. He could listen to team members and quickly analyze the bottlenecks in any system. During our sessions, I noticed like the sage he was; he spent far more time listening before making a single statement or asking a question. 

During our sessions, we all wanted to know how it was possible to turn a life around after someone had spent that many years in prison. That seemed to us as an insurmountable task. He shared his problem-solving model with my team to answer one of our related questions. His four squares method.  It is a model I still use to this day. From that day forward, whenever I am faced with what appears to be an impossible task, I think of Rusty and his four squares.  

Initially, I was cautiously curious. However, it was not long before I was sold.  It also made me realize that the size of a problem doesn’t matter. What’s most important to solving any problem is discovering that there was one. And knowing as much as possible about the issues. He emphasized the importance of understanding the knows before spending a minute trying to find a solution.

Russ then demonstrated how to approach solving any problem by folding a blank sheet of paper twice to produce four squares—and numbering each square B1, B2, B3, and B4. The next step – ask the following questions. Then place your answer in the appropriate box.

B1. This is what we know about the problem.
B2. This is what we don’t know about the problem. 
B3. This is what we know that we know about the problem for sure
B4. And this is what we don’t care to know about the problem.

He also emphasized the importance of brutal honesty when filling in each box.  Then the fun began. Reviewing the content of each square was an eye-opener for everyone. Our moments facing the truth about ourselves and our perceived problems brought laughter and even tears to the eyes of some. It was like the dawning of a new day after that session.   

After all was said and done, I realized Rusty was my messenger. He gave us a problem-solving model we could all use to solve problems far beyond those we faced at work or play. As I share his model with you today, I feel like I am one of his messengers. So, I leave you with his message; his four squares of problem-solving. And today, I am confident that whenever you are faced with a problem that may seem insurmountable, feel lost, or believe that all but hope is lost, rest assured that your messenger will appear.  And when you listen to their message, you too, will take your leap of faith.   

Your Voice – Your Instrument

If you want people to listen to you, you must be prepared to listen to yourself.

Your voice is your instrument. You carry it with you every day of your life. However, do you know the sound of your voice? Can listeners clearly understand what you are saying when you speak? Every instrument has a distinctive sound.  We all know what a trumpet, sax, or tuba sounds like.  If you were to hear a snippet from you and seven of your close friends, would you be able to identify which voice was yours? We all have accents and different ways of pronouncing certain words. We recognize and even admire the sound of our favorite speakers and singers. Over time, we become familiar with their pitch, range, and tamber.   

Every instrument has to be tuned, and so too is your voice. To produce a clear sound, you have to work on improving your “Buzz,” which makes your tone. To create that “Buzz,” you must work on breathing. All speakers understand the importance of inhaling air when speaking and the control required in its emission.  We all depart from our natural breathing as infants with age and personal development. Many of us use almost exclusively the upper portion of our lung capacity when speaking. To develop proper resonance, flexibility, and a beautiful tone, we must focus on correcting how we breathe while avoiding the condition we call shallow breathing.  Many articulation exercises are available in books and on the internet to address this problem.

Before you can even begin to improve your speaking voice, you must first find it. You should know how you sound.  Your voice tone in everyday communication is an excellent place to start. Observe the pitch you typically default to if you were to start humming. Observe the natural ease and comfort you feel. Take note of how you felt when you tried humming at a lower or higher pitch. William Shakespeare had this to say about finding your beautiful tone when speaking:

“Two factors are necessary; first, the breath must be under perfect control; and second, the vocal organs must be trained to act with unconscious ease – without correct breath control, and without freedom of the vocal muscles, a beautiful clear tone of voice cannot be attained.”

Once you have found your speaking voice, your next step is improvement and maintenance with exercises to strengthen your facial muscles – your jaw, throat, tongue, and lips. These are all critical muscles of your “Mask Cavity” that speakers must develop with vocal exercises. One I highly recommend is “Mouth exercise for Clear Speech,” available here: Articulation Exercises. Here you will find exercises that cover many letters and sounds of the alphabet.  Some speakers may need more help from a speaking coach to produce a clear tone. However, this is an excellent place to start.

Speakers should also be aware of times when their tone and pitch change while delivering presentations.  It is natural for a speaker’s voice to change if they are nervous, excited, or are being assertive. Understanding those changes in your communication style and using them effectively can turn what may be, to some, a liability into an asset when presenting. Starting with your natural Hum or Buzz and changing registers is an excellent exercise for beginners. This exercise helps speakers move seamlessly between registers.  With soft lips lightly touching, hum a few of your favorite tunes. Recite or read and record a few short sentences. Listen to your recordings.

As any coach will say, if you want people to listen to you, you must be prepared to listen to yourself.

Practicing correctly is critical. As you practice, pay attention to details. When you do, you will achieve the best results. Maintain good posture and proper inhalations.  Practice humming and buzzing with ease as you exercise your vocal muscles. Make sure your lips are soft, barely touching. They should also be loose at the corners. The tongue should lie easily and loosely, with the tip of your tongue lightly touching your lower front teeth. Ensure your throat is free as if you are about to begin yawning. Also, remember that exercises are useless when performed incorrectly. Start slowly and increase your speed as you become more proficient. Exercises performed once correctly are far more valuable than an exercise repeatedly done poorly. Begin your humming and buzzing with simple songs. As you improve, step it up to include classical pieces and choruses as your breath control and resonance improve. Keep practicing, and over time you will find what is unique and natural to us all – Your distinctive, beautiful sound – Your voice – Your instrument.  

Acting & Public Speaking Same Difference?

Tell a story to make a point

What’s the difference between Acting and Public Speaking? Actors perform –  Speakers speak to be heard, understood, and repeated. They are different disciplines, but they have a lot in common. They both strive to achieve the same goals – communicating with their audience. However, some may ask, if 90 percent of all communication is nonverbal, shouldn’t public speakers include some acting when they are presenting?  And who determines if a speaker is acting or public speaking? Unfortunately for many speakers, when they don’t address those questions with their coaches and evaluators, audiences will walk away with the answers to those critical questions, and the speaker will be none the wiser. Actors perform, and public speakers use language to make their connection.

Speakers speak to inform, persuade, entertain and inspire. Storytelling is a critical skill all speakers use to achieve those goals. However, a fine line divides both lanes. Some speakers drift in and out of the acting lane with success. However, they must be reminded that speakers speak and actors perform. Acting is unnecessary when speakers use different figures of speech to tell stories. Dr. Randy Harvey, the 2004 World Champion of Public Speaking, uses the acronym SCREAM as a reminder to include Similes, Contrast, Rhyme, Echo, Alliteration, and Metaphors when storytelling. Speakers should also have a basic understanding of what is acting and what is public speaking.

Storytelling is the act of telling stories. They are narratives with a beginning, middle, and end. Webster defines acting as the act of presenting a character on stage or camera. The definition of Public Speaking is the act or process of making speeches in public. They all have a common purpose – the art of effectively communicating with an audience. And although the word act is present in all three instances, how the actor or speaker chooses to perform those acts makes all the difference.  Adding gestures, vocal variety, and eye contact when delivering a speech is not acting. All speakers must develop those essential skills to enhance their ability to connect with audiences. Your body speaks even louder than what you are saying; however, your words and actions must be in sync. You may very well be in the wrong lane when they are not.

A public speaker’s primary objective is maintaining contact with their audience throughout their delivery. Conversely, actors create an imaginary wall on stage between themselves and their audience as part of their act. In theatre, it is referred to as the fourth wall. Actors create an imaginary invisible wall to separate themselves from the audience. The audience fully views the actors communicating with each other on stage as if they are in private, which is quite the opposite of what public speakers strive to achieve.  I can remember observing Derek Walcott back in the 1970s while working on two of his plays – the Joker of Seville and O’Babylon. He would spend hours directing seasoned actors to break down that fourth wall when he wanted them to make a connection with the audience. Yes, actors do change lanes also.  

All speakers realize that maintaining a connection with audiences depends on their approach to Public Speaking. When speaking one-to-one in conversations, we all talk naturally. Speakers who take that same approach to the speaking platform communicate more effectively with audiences. When a speaker can build trust by speaking naturally from the heart, audiences will listen, regardless of size.  However, speakers must give their audience something to remember. Speakers must silence the questions that creep into the minds of their audience during a presentation. When an audience is watching and listening to a speaker, they are processing what they heard and interpreting what they saw and felt. When they like what they hear, you are connected. When they don’t, you lose them.    

I will never forget one of my dad’s favorite sayings, and he had many: – son, there’s nothing new under the sun. Dear to be different. Always give your audience something old, something new, something borrowed, and wear something blue for good luck and to ward off evil spirits. As always, papa was right, so I made those words of wisdom my secret to connecting with audiences. But finding and developing your unique style that interests audiences is always challenging. I would later discover the key is how the speaker chooses to deliver their message. Good speakers deliver their message as if it were served in fine China, while others will offer that same message as if it were on a garbage cover. Delivery makes all the difference.  

David Brooks, the 1990 World Champion of Public Speaking, has often said in his coaching sessions that the secret to Public Speaking is simple when you break it all down.  You tell a story to make a point, or you make a point, then tell a story. It is that simple. Then you repeat that process over and over. Give your audience something to think, feel, talk about or take some action after hearing your presentation. Leave the acting to the actors. They are performers. Use the SCREAM method when presenting. And when you speak to be heard, understood, and repeated, there would be no question in the minds of your audience about if you were acting or public speaking long after you have departed the platform.  

Adding Dialogue to Your Monologue

With dialogue, you can bring an experience or event back to life.

We all have heard it said. No one could tell your story better than you. While that may be true, how you tell your story can make all the difference. Speakers often deliver their presentations as a monologue, dialogue, or with a combination of both. Stories delivered as a monologue is one person doing all the talking.  With dialogue, the speaker can punctuate their presentation with the characters’ voices to make their point more effective or move an audience to make the story unforgettable.

The word monologue has its roots in the Greek word “monologos” – translation, speaking alone.  Dialogue also has Greek roots derived from the word “dialogos” – a conversation between two or more characters narrating parts of the story. Many speakers deliver their entire presentation as a monologue.  However, when you add dialogue to a monologue, speakers can engage their audience as if they both are having a conversation within the presentation.

Dialogue takes you back to experience the scene’s true emotional and personal impact. When two or more people are involved in a conversation, everyone brings their pleasures and pains to the platform. Their emotions are express as a conversation with the audience. The speaker is no longer telling the story or delivering the message to the audience. Instead, the speaker is reliving a moment in time with the audience. With dialogue, you can bring an experience or event back to life.  You can take your audience back to the time and place of the event to show your audience what happened and not just tell them about what happened.

Dialogue also opens the doors to a wide range of voices and opportunities to explore your vocal variety. It is always more interesting for an audience to hear other voices in a speech and not just one voice narrating a story. For example, you cannot deliver what was said using the character’s voice when delivering a monologue. With dialogue, you can create other voices to make your presentation conversational, more interesting, and memorable for your audience.

The beauty of dialogue, when used correctly, does not dominate the speech; it blends in seamlessly. Administer your dialogue in small doses like medicine. A little goes a long way in making parts of your presentation unforgettable.  Dr. Randy Harvey demonstrated that technique beautifully in his speech – Lessons from Fatdad.  Here is that amazing emotional scene he created after his dad’s thunderous bellow scattered their hounds like cottonseeds on the wind:

“The next morning – Fatdad was buffing the scratches out of his new car.

 I said – “Fatdad, I’m sorry you had to rescue me.”

He scooped me up in his big arms,

Said – “Son, in life, sometimes you’re the catcher – sometimes you’re the caught.”

“When you love somebody – their trouble is your trouble.”

That line delivered with dialogue remains one of the most unforgettable moments of that speech to this day. His speech also won him the coveted title of World Champion of Public Speaking in August of 2004.

When using quotations, dialogue allows the speaker to imitate the voice of the person you are quoting.  With dialogue, a speaker can use voice, tone, and inflections to bring the words of great speakers back to life. Just a snippet is often enough to change the focus of your audience in a speech. At that moment, audiences often reflect on a time and place when those exact words meant something special to them. For some, it can be a moment of learning, growth, understanding, or renewal.

We all have stories to tell, so don’t be afraid to tell yours.   Practice using stories within your speeches. Use dialogue to transport your audiences back in time. Share the emotions you once experienced with your audiences. Explore different storytelling styles by adding dialogue to your monologue.  Be conscious of which part of the body you are addressing as you speak. Ask yourself, am I addressing the head, heart, hands, or feet? Get your audiences to think, feel or do something. Speak with a purpose, and someone will always be ready, willing, and able to lend you an attentive ear.  When you speak from the heart, the world will listen. And you, your voice, and your stories will live on forever.

Your Natural Speaking Voice

The breath must be under perfect control.

Do you know the sound of your natural speaking voice? If you listened to a short statement read by you and seven of your friends recorded weeks earlier, could you identify which voice was yours? Whenever I listen to some of the great speakers of yesterday and today, I realize how critical it is to find your natural speaking voice. Notice the pitch, range, and timbre of the speakers you admire. They understand the importance of inhalation of air when speaking and the control required in its emission.

Many of us depart from our natural breathing as infants with age and development. We use almost exclusively the upper portion of our lung capacity. To develop proper resonance, flexibility, and vocal beauty, focus on correcting how you breathe and correcting that condition called shallow breathing. How you breathe determines the quality of your natural speaking voice.

Before you can improve your speaking voice, you must recognize it. It is the tone and pitch we all use in our everyday communication. There is no need to look much further. Observe the pitch you would typically default to if you were to start humming. Notice the ease and comfort you feel instead of when trying to hum at a lower or higher pitch. William Shakespeare, the famous English poet, and playwright (1564-1616), said it best. He had this to say about finding your beautiful tone when speaking or singing.

Two factors are necessary: 1.The breath must be under perfect control. 2. You must train your vocal organs to act with unconscious ease. Without proper breath control and freedom of the vocal muscles, a speaker cannot attain a beautiful clear tone of voice.

Once you have found your natural speaking voice, the next steps are development and maintenance. Freedom of the jaw, throat, tongue, and lips are critical areas speakers must develop. It is a slow and disciplined process. Some speakers may require help from a speaking coach to break some of the bad habits perfected over time. Speakers should also notice how their tone and pitch changes when they are on the platform.  It is natural for a speaker’s voice to change if they are nervous, excited, or assertive. Understanding how to use those changes effectively can turn what may be, to some, a liability into an asset when presenting. Start with your natural hum and try changing registers. That is an excellent exercise for beginners to practice moving seamlessly between registers. With soft lips lightly touching, hum a favorite tune. Then recite or read and record a few short sentences. Listen to your recordings. If you want people to listen to you speak, you must be prepared to listen to yourself.

Attention to detail as you practice is of paramount importance. Maintain good posture, proper inhalations, and hum with ease as you practice exercising your vocal muscles. Make sure the lips are soft, barely touching, and loose at the corners. The tongue should lie easily and loosely, with the tip of your tongue lightly touching your lower front teeth. Make sure your throat is free as if you are about to begin yawning. Exercises are useless when performed incorrectly. Those performed once correctly are far more valuable than an exercise done repeatedly while ignoring a single detail. Begin your humming with simple songs, even nursery rhymes.  As you become more proficient with your breathing, step it up to include classical pieces and choruses as your resonance improves. Keep practicing and humming correctly, and you, too, will find that which is native to us all, your natural speaking voice.

The Art of Interpretation

Bringing words to life can be a daunting task!

20190704_140329The art of Interpretation is one of the essential disciplines speakers should attempt to master. Bringing words to life can be a daunting task for speakers and coaches. Some may ask, what is the art of Interpretation? Is it acting, well, not exactly! It is a multi-faceted dynamic style of speaking which demands the mastery of communicating your concepts, thoughts, and ideas by carefully combing words, tone, and body language. Some of the many other related fundamental requirements include breath control, good diction, vocal variety, rhythm, resonance, and phrasing. Mastery of each of these disciplines can completely change your audience Interpretation of the spoken word.

All speakers cannot fully acquire these requirements in a few short months. Certain concepts are more difficult to grasp than others immediately. It takes long and serious study and the development of best practices. Good speaking begins with proper breathing. There are two points to remember regarding the use of breath in speaking. (1) The speaker should inhale each breath quickly and deeply. (2) Its emission must be gradual and perfectly controlled to sustain, expand, or diminish their tone. The basis of breath control is good posture. Perfect posture makes inhaling easy. An active diaphragm and strong rib muscles provide the necessary perfection of controlling emission.

Speakers should also be aware that it is not the quantity of breath taken in, it is the managed column of air expelled, and that makes for an excellent speaking voice. Some additional physical requirements to produce a resonant tone are the loosening of the neck, jaw, throat, lips and tongue muscles and the regular recurrence of stressed and unstressed words, which creates rhythm in your speech patterns. It is those speech patterns, which add that distinctive quality to your tone and voice.

Tone and body language play an essential role in the art of Interpretation. While there are those who will say that Interpretation and acting are indistinguishable, there are notable differences. The speakers, who excel at this art, are those whose focus is on delivering a speech and not an act. They use verbal punctuation, correct pronunciation, and expression to connect with their audience while discovering the many joys and benefits of interpretation.

Speakers, challenge yourself to explore the use of neutral and weak vowels to heighten the effect of your tone.  Use body language to reinforce your punch lines by adding a punch look. Use silence to send your message. Be aware that sometimes your words may convey one meaning to your audiences while your tone and body language may be screaming something completely different.  And remember speakers,  what your audience decide to think, feel, or do after they have heard your speech, may depend on how well you have mastered the art of Interpretation.

Breathing Exercises to Improve Volume

10 exercises that will help you develop proper breathing

 

20181208_090917Correct, natural breathing is the foundation of a good voice.  Unless you have had voice lessons, athletic training or play an instrument, most likely your breathing is shallow, misdirected or may be lacking control. Failure to breathe properly is a leading cause of poor speaking volume. Watch an infant lying asleep. The entire body is relaxed and the abdominal muscles work with every breath. The muscular movement is almost entirely below the ribs. How do you breathe? You can judge the correctness of your own breathing by watching your shoulders. If they are raised when you inhale, you are missing the deep, abdominal breathing effect that is natural and correct.

Here are 10 exercises that will help you develop proper breathing and improve your vocal volume.

  1. Exhale all air from your lungs. Continue pushing it out even after you feel all your air is expelled. When no more air can be forced out of your lungs you will automatically inhale. Inhale deeply. Observe how the air rushes in. Only a deep, full inhalation will satisfy your hunger for air. Repeat this process frequently, but not more than three or four times at each repetition.

  2. Exhale comfortably. Then take a moderately filling breath, not crowding your capacity. Hold it for 15 seconds, then exhale quietly. Repeat this process frequently for several days. Then gradually increase your holding time to 20 seconds, 30 seconds, and 45 seconds. Eventually, you will be able to hold your breath for a full minute. This exercise will help you to develop breath control by strengthening your diaphragm and related muscles.

  3. Standing erect, inhale taking five quick short gasps with your mouth open. You will notice that you cannot gasp like this without using your diaphragm. Five gasps should fill your lungs to capacity, then exhale in five quick gasps or puffs. Next, practice gasping and puffing through your nose with your mouth closed.

  4. Laugh heartily with a big “Ha Ha Ha” Carry this through to complete exhalation, then inhale deeply and quickly.

  5. Close your lips and laugh soundless through your nose. You will exercise your diaphragm whether you breathe through your mouth or your nose, but laughing silently through your nose will promote better control.

  6. Lie on your back. Place a book on your diaphragm. Try to relax each part of your body, then concentrate on the movement of your diaphragm. As you inhale, the book rises. As you exhale, flatten your abdomen as much as you can. Repeat this exercise until you automatically expand and contract your waist as you breathe.

  7. Stand, then bend over as if to touch your toes, but just hang limply. Remain in this position for a full minute, then straighten and repeat the exercise. Your breath is expelled naturally when you bend at the waist.

  8. Standing, place your hands on your hips, lean your head back, look at the ceiling, and yawn. Your waist will expand as your diaphragm flattens and draws in air. Then, as you exhale, produce the sound, ah, holding it as long as you can without discomfort.

  9. Standing, take a deep breath. As you exhale, count aloud from one to five on a single breath. Repeat the exercise, counting from one to 10. Do not strain. Allow the air to flow easily.

  10. Read a paragraph aloud that contains a mixture of short and long sentences. Read each sentence on a single breath, if possible, inhaling before the sentence, then controlling your exhalation as you read. Do not think that you must fill your lungs before speaking. Your brain controls the amount of air needed with each breath. Keep your breathing easy and comfortable.

The preceding exercises will help you increase breathing strength and technique, however, when you speak, keep your breathing quiet and natural so that the audience won’t notice it. Breathe easily at natural pauses and if you’re using a microphone, be especially careful that the microphone does not pick up your breathing. Those distracting sounds will be transmitted to your audience.

Methods for Voice Relaxation

Your voice will sound richer and more colorful.

20181203_143234.jpgVoice relaxation is essential for good speaking, especially when doing vocal exercises. Many people “talk in their throat,” meaning they hold their vocal tones too far back.  When your vocal tones are too far back in your throat, your jaw muscles tense up and your voice sounds harsh and squeezed. You cannot produce a fine, resonant, pleasing tone when your throat muscles are pinched, tense, or strained.

Tight muscles combined with inadequate breath support causes disagreeable tones. A tone that sounds thin, nasal, high-pitched, and lacking in resonance. Nervousness also causes throat tightness, which is a common occurrence for inexperienced public speakers. If tightness is present during ordinary conversation, it is usually because of carelessness or if the speaker is not aware of how to relax their voice.

Here is a six-step method for relaxing your voice. If you do these simple exercises several times daily for a few minutes each time, you will soon notice a difference. Your voice will sound richer and more colorful.

  1. While standing or sitting comfortably, place your hands lightly on your throat muscles and speaks in a normal tone. Note the tenseness of the throat muscles and the tightness of your jaw.
  1. Yawn. Open your mouth wide. Finish the yawn with an easy “ho-hum,” prolonging the “hum” for several seconds. Drop your jaw as far as it will go without stress. Waggle the jaw from side to side and continue humming with your lips closed and jaw loose.
  1. Repeat the yawning and humming. Notice how your throat muscles have loosened and become relaxed see how comfortable your throat feels with the strain removed.
  1. To retain a feeling of ease and looseness, say the following words: hang, harm, lane, main, lone, loom. Open your mouth wide, dropping your jaw loosely. Exaggerate your lip and jaw movements. When your throat feels tired, stop and yawn again.
  1. Lightly knead the throat muscles with your fingers to eliminate tightness.
  1. Slowly repeat the following sounds: nah, nay, nee, no, noo. Drop your jaw and relax your throat. Prolong the sounds, giving each equal length.

Practice these methods of voice relaxation and you will develop a tone that is richer and more colorful.

Your Speaking Voice

The primary cause of negative voice quality is tension

20181208_090953On a recent trip to Pismo Beach, I was asked by a colleague how can I improve my speaking voice? Are there exercises I should be doing to improve my voice and where should I begin? Those questions made me refer to some of my notes from a training session which addressed those questions. That Toastmasters training session was entitled – “Your Speaking Voice.”

Breath Produces Voice:  Deep, controlled breathing is necessary for good Vocal production. Your voice is supported by a column of air, the depth, and steadiness of which determines your vocal quality. Think of the diaphragm as the foundation on which this air column rests and by which it is controlled as it comes upward to meet the vocal organs. When you breathe in, your abdominal wall expands and the dome-shaped diaphragm flattens. When you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes and the abdominal wall contracts. The relaxed diaphragm rises, pushing air out of the lungs. The exhaled air provides the controlled production of speech sounds.

As the air pushes upward against the vocal cords, it causes them to momentarily separate, allowing the air to pass between them. The rush of air and the elasticity of the vocal cords then pulls them back together. The production of these vibrations is called phonation. Consider how sound is produced at the mouth of an inflated balloon. Vocal sound is produced in a similar manner. Air pressure comes up through the throat, mouth, and nose, causing a continuous pressure change in the air surrounding the speaker. These pressure changes are called sound waves. They are transmitted to the ear of the listener and the voice is heard.

Production of Voice Quality: Think for a moment about musical woodwind and brass instruments. Their sound comes from the musician’s breath and lip vibrations or the vibrations of a reed in the mouthpiece. Because the chambers of these instruments differ in size and shape, their tone qualities are distinctive. Different parts of the original tone are increased, or resonated, and other parts are reduced. Human resonance is the increasing or modifying of sounds by the throat, nose, and mouth. The sound waves created by the vibration of the vocal cords travel into the upper part of the throat, then to the mouth and, at times, into the nose. As these waves bounce around within these structures, they are reinforced and amplified. The differences in people’s voices arise from the size of the vocal cords and the effects that the resonators (throat, mouth, nasal passages) have on the vocal tone. To a certain extent, a speaker can change the size, shape, and surface tensions of the pharynx and the oral cavity; he or she may also use, partly use, or close off the nasal cavities.

Improving Your Voice: Before trying to improve your voice, you must first understand what kind of vice you have. Do you whisper or boom. Does your voice convey life, color, and melody, or do your sentences come out flat, wooden, and without variety? The primary cause of negative voice quality is tension – emotional or physical tension – so controlling tension is critical to improving your voice quality. The key to developing effective voice quality is being aware of the different roles you play during a typical day: parent, employee, boss, friend, lover, consumer, salesperson. Each of these roles reflects different personality traits and requires different voice images. Listen to how your voice sounds in your various roles as you relate to others. Consider what you are doing with your voice. How is your mouth moving? How are you using your lips? To improve your voice, you must become aware of stress, muscle tension, and relaxation. The most important recommendation for developing voice quality is to relax your throat while you speak. Think in terms of the impression you would like to convey. Is it friendliness, confidence, and a desire to communicate? If you release the tension from your voice, a pleasing tone will likely result. Remember that the emotions and vocal colorings you express with your voice can arouse similar feelings in others.

The Power of Tongue Twisters

IMG_6959In my last article on tongue twisters, I mentioned how much they can help with your speaking development.  Tongue twisters are sentences that are hard to pronounce when you speak really fast. The reason they are hard to pronounce is that they have words that have similar sounds. Here are a few I found on the internet for you to try as you begin to develop your own. Try the following tongue twisters: Start slowly and develop speed as you progress. They will also help develop the muscles we use when speaking.

  1. I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!
  2. I wish to wish the wish you wish to wish, but if you wish the wish the witch wishes, I won’t wish the wish you wish to wish.
  3. Bubble bobble, bubble bobble, bubble bobble
  4. A sailor went to sea to see, what he could see. And all he could see Was sea, sea, sea.
  5. Sally sells sea shells by the seashore. But if Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore then where are the seashells Sally sells?
  6. If two witches were watching two watches, which witch would watch which watch?
  7. Wayne went to Wales to watch walruses.
  8. Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair, FuzzyWuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy
  9. How much wood could a wood chopper chop, if a wood chopper could chop wood?
  10. Penny’s pretty pink piggy bank
  11. Jolly juggling jesters jauntily juggled jingling jacks.
  12. I thought a thought. But the thought I thought wasn’t the thought
    I thought I thought.
  13. Double bubble gum bubbles double
  14. Lovely Laura loves lucky Larry.
  15. A skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk,
    but the stump thunk the skunk stunk.
  16. Yellow butter, purple jelly, red jam, black bread.
    Spread it thick, say it quick!
    Yellow butter, purple jelly, red jam, black bread.
    Spread it thicker, say it quicker!
    Yellow butter, purple jelly, red jam, black bread.
    Don’t eat with your mouth full!
  17. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
    if Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
    wheres the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
  18. Whether the weather be fine
    or whether the weather be not.
    Whether the weather be cold
    or whether the weather be hot.
    We’ll weather the weather
    whether we like it or not.
  19. How many yaks could a yak pack – pack if a yak pack could pack yaks?
  20. Don’t trouble – trouble, until trouble troubles you! If you trouble – trouble, triple trouble troubles you!
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