How to project your normal speaking voice

If you need to project your voice and make yourself heard, The Public Speaker has 3 tips for how to make your voice bigger (rather than just louder).

Over the years I’ve worked with many clients who have asked me to teach them to project their voice further. I’ve discovered that most people do know how to project their voice, the problem is often the speaker’s perception of how loudly (or quietly) they’re actually speaking..

How to project your normal speaking voiceTry this. Have someone you trust stand in the back of a room while you speak in the front. When you stop, write down how you perceived your volume on a scale of 1-10. Then ask the listener to do the same. You’ll likely be surprised to find the listener perceived you as much quieter than you thought.

Occasionally I work with someone with the opposite problem. They think they are speaking at a normal volume when in fact they’re speaking much louder. This same technique can help you gauge that too.

Most of the time, if you’re speaking in front of a group, you’ll have the aid of a microphone. But there are times when you need to project your voice without a microphone. I have a client who is an Orthodox Jewish rabbi and his beliefs prohibit the use of a microphone to deliver his weekly sermon. Naturally, he speaks in front of a large group each week and his voice needs to be heard. We’re working on some techniques to help him project better and more consistently.

You too can learn to make your voice carry further and sound louder. It requires a little work, but it will save you from straining your vocal cords. Here are 3 best practices you can incorporate today:

Tip #1: Breathe Properly

The way you breathe affects the way your voice comes out. After all, air flowing over your vocal cords is the reason you have a voice at all.

If you breathe shallowly, you will quickly run out of air, and then your throat muscles tense up to try to squeeze the sound out. Your voice will sound strained and lack carrying power. It’s hard on your vocal cords, too.

When you take the time to fill your lungs, it’s as if your voice is riding on a supportive cushion of air, and your throat muscles can stay relaxed. Your voice will carry better and have a richer, more pleasing sound.

How to project your normal speaking voiceI was listening to a young speaker conducting a microphone check for a presentation before a large meeting.

People at the back of the room kept saying, “Project!” and “Louder, please.” We were already having trouble hearing the speaker, even before the room was full of people, but their approach wasn’t working.

Frankly, I wasn’t surprised. Just telling someone to yell doesn’t solve the problem of projection. Similarly, just speaking louder doesn’t create a powerful voice.

The Three Key Components of a Powerful Sound

The key components of a powerful sound are:

  1. personality,
  2. passion, and
  3. strong vocal physique.

The first two components are achieved by being yourself and by being clear about your intention. The third, through awareness and practice.

1. Personality

Personality is “you” and the unique gifts you share with your audience. Personality is the unique imprint your thought leaves on your voice, making it distinguishable from other voices and revealing things about your particular experiences and perspective. You cannot escape the revelatory nature of your voice. The essence of who you are is in your voice for all to hear.

If you want to be heard, it’s vital that you celebrate your authentic self. In a New York Times interview Ursula Burns, the impressive new head of Xerox Corporation, wisely remarked, “I can’t try to say it in somebody else’s voice. I have to say it in my voice.”

2. Passion

Passion is the power of intention aligned with content and personality. We have already covered personality, so what about intention and content?

Content is simply what you have to say. It’s your message, your words, your ideas manifested in spoken form. Intention, on the other hand, is what you have in mind to do or bring about. It is why you are speaking in the first place, why you are standing in front of an audience, what you hope to accomplish. When intention, content and personality align, we have passion. And when there is passion, powerful things happen.

When a speaker is passionate, they seem authentic and genuine. For that reason, actors are trained to pour intent in their lines and speak with passion. We are so tuned in to this aspect of voices that babies as young as six months old can discern intention in voices. I have written about this subject in my blog.

If your intention is unclear, if it conflicts with your message or even with the reason people think you are there, your vocal power will diminish and you’ll lose your audience.

3. Strong Vocal Physique

“ Speaking louder doesn’t create a powerful voice. ”

Strong vocal physique is the ability to produce a vibrantly resonant sound and to have a good command of breathing technique.

Because sound travels on air, resonance and air are intimately connected in the voice. In an earlier Six Minutes article, I focus on good breathing technique for speaking. This is important because air itself makes the voice work. As you exhale, air moves from your lungs through your trachea (or windpipe). It then passes between your vocal folds (also called arytenoids and vocal cords) and brings those muscles together. As they vibrate, sound happens. You use your throat, tongue, lips, and jaw to shape the sound into words.

Now, if someone tells you to speak up, there is a good chance you will use more air as you increase your volume. That’s an improvement. But speaking more loudly may just come across as yelling — and you also risk straining your voice. It is more correct to suggest that you stand up straight, take a big breath, and use more air to carry the sound as you speak up, but that is a very long set of instructions for even the best of sound men! Better that you know what “project” means so you do it right.

Developing Resonance through Awareness and Practice

Resonance is the reverberation or repetition of sound in the environment in which it was created. When someone speaks, resonance is created in the body as well as in the surrounding area. The resonance in the body can be felt by the speaker. The two extremes of resonance are “head voice,” which is where high sounds resonate, and “chest voice,” which is where low sounds resonate.

However, most sounds the human voice makes can also resonate in the mask, or the front of the face. A voice with plenty of mask resonance is strong, and clear, no matter how loud or soft. A voice with good mask resonance is pleasant to listen to and flexible, allowing for rich vocal variety.

Mask resonance is a combination of nasal and mouth resonance. The sound you are looking for will produce a pronounced vibration in the front of your face.


Try it now. Say “Mmmmm.” See if you can feel the buzzy sensation in the front of your face. (I’ve had a lot of fun doing this on radio interviews.) That’s mask resonance. Another way to produce it is to simply say “Mmm-hmm,” like an enthusiastic “yes.” Now say, “Mmm-hmm one. Mmm-hmm two. Mmm-hmm three.” Can you feel that sensation carry over into the words “one,” “two,” and “three?”

Daily Practice…

Use mask resonance at the beginning of a sentence and try to keep that sensation in the words that follow. For example, say “Mmmmmm. It’s great to see you.”

Did you feel the resonance in the mask as you spoke “It’s great to see you,” or did it fade away?

Try it again. This does require some practice. Spend 20 minutes a day working with this, and add it to your awareness as you practice your presentations.

Don’t be afraid of nasal resonance, but know that you need a good combination of mouth and nose, which is why the focus is in the front of the face, not just the nose. If a voice sounds too nasal, it is as bad as one that has no mask resonance. Eventually, you will learn to use mask resonance all the time. As a bonus, according to Swedish researchers, mask resonance is also good for your health.

Being Heard

The next time someone tells you to “project” or to “speak up,” remember that projecting your voice is much more than just making it louder.

  1. You project your voice by allowing it to shine with your personality, and having confidence that you have something unique to say.
  2. You project your voice with passion for your message by setting a clear intention.
  3. And you project your voice by developing a resonant sound that is supported with your whole body through air and energy.

When you do these three things, you will be heard.

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A natural voice is a valuable asset when you speak in public. The sincerity, warmth and expression you convey through your voice underlie the persuasive power of your words. On the other hand, should you try to enhance your speaking voice by pitching it lower or higher than normal, it conveys a noticeable nervousness or falseness that detracts from your words.

Most people have no formal voice training, a discipline usually reserved for singers, actors or politicians. When some men speak, they tend to use a lower voice than their normal range because they believe it makes them sound more authoritative. Some women tend to speak at a higher pitch in the belief that they sound more feminine. Both of these practices often result in making their language harder to understand. People have other habits that detract from their voices too, such as speaking with a nasal tone or with an unnatural breathiness.

How to project your normal speaking voice

When you think about the people who have the most influence in society, consider their voices. Revered political figures such as Nelson Mandela, entertainment icons like Meryl Streep, and outspoken leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. underscore their words with an innate power summoned from deep within themselves.

Similarly, using a false voice has a negative affect on what you are saying. With dedication and focus, you can rediscover and strengthen your natural voice using some simple daily exercises.

In his book “Change Your Voice, Change Your Life,” expert vocal coach Dr. Morton Cooper asserts that the voices most people use are not at all natural. Some people, consciously or unconsciously, imitate the voice of a person they admire. Others develop false voices in reaction to people they dislike. For example, if that person has a weak voice, you may develop a strong, abrasive voice that is as different as possible.

Tip One: Mmm-hmmm

According to Dr. Cooper, the first step in rediscovering your natural voice is the “mmm-hmmm” exercise:

1. With lips closed, respond to the statement below with a spontaneous and sincere “mmm-hmmm.”

“Recess is my favorite part of the school day.”

2. Check to see whether you feel vibration in the mask area of your face as you respond. The mask area includes your lips, the bony ridge of your nose and the sides of your nose. If you feel your mask vibrating as you say “mmm-hmmm,” then you are projecting your voice naturally rather than speaking through your nose or straining your throat. Directing sound through the mask opens up your voice to its natural range and power.

3. Now, practice counting with alternating “mmm-hmmms”: one, mmm-hmmm; two, mmm-hmmm; three, mmm-hmmm; and so on. Note how the natural tone and pitch of your voice sounds, and use that as a guideline each time you speak.

Tip Two: Enrich Your Voice with Diaphragm Power

Just because you have been breathing your entire life doesn’t mean you are doing it correctly. If you watch a baby asleep in her crib, you will notice that she naturally breathes with her diaphragm, her chest and shoulders relaxed. Due to social training that teaches you to hold in your stomach and stand up straight, you tend to relearn breathing at an early age, relying on your chest muscles rather than filling your diaphragm with air.

How to project your normal speaking voice

To optimize the power of your natural voice, you should focus on breathing from your diaphragm. Located between your chest and stomach cavities, the diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that helps move air from your lungs upward, adding resonance and power to your voice.

1. Find out how you normally breathe by taking a deep breath while standing. If this action makes your chest puff out and your shoulders rise, you are breathing shallowly from your chest rather than deeper down. Your voice may be breathy or weak as a result, and you probably experience throat strain when raising your voice.

2. Now, take a deep breath without moving your shoulders, routing the air deep down into your belly. If your stomach/abdomen expands and contracts with your breath, you are breathing the correct way — from your diaphragm.

3. Compare speaking while breathing from your chest and then breathing from the diaphragm. As you push air through your mask, your voice becomes louder and more robust with diaphragm breathing. You can now speak as loudly as possible without straining your throat in the least. Your newly resonant voice has depth, warmth, sincerity and persuasive power.

By practicing these two quick, easy methods for optimizing your voice, you can improve your public speaking technique daily. When you combine all of tools in your rhetorical arsenal with the power of a natural, resonant voice, your ability to positively influence others will become stronger than ever before.

When most people think about how to improve their public speaking skills, they often overlook one of the most important tools at their disposal: your speaking voice.

Common public speaking tips might include how to start your speech or how to overcome public speaking fears , but your voice influences the impact of your speech and can make or break its success.

Fortunately, you can learn to use your voice, just like playing a musical instrument, to increase your power and persuasiveness in any conversation or speech that you give. This is becoming increasingly important now that a lot of presentations are being done virtually.

All you need is a little bit of guidance, so now I’m going to walk you through my 6 tips to help you improve your public speaking voice.

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1) Slow Down

When you speak more slowly, your voice has more power and authority. Your listeners have an opportunity to absorb and reflect on what you’re saying.

A speaking voice that exudes confidence will give your words greater importance.

All-powerful people speak slowly, enunciate clearly, avoid filler words and express themselves with confidence.

When you speak too rapidly, your pitch increases, often to something squeaky and child-like. This decreases the impact of your words and your influence on the audience because listeners downgrade the importance or value of what you are saying.

So remember, a loud, confident speaking voice presented with an even pace will lead to a powerful and moving speech.

2) Use Voice Exercises

The human voice is like a muscle. It can be made stronger with exercise and use.

Many people with weak voices have become powerful, confident speakers by building their voices over time with exercise.

Here’s an example. Memorize a piece of poetry and recite it regularly as you drive or walk around. Imagine that you’re making a dramatic presentation on a stage, in front of a large number of people.

Put emotion and strength and emphasis and energy into the words. Go slowly. Change the emphasis on each word in the line of poetry, thereby changing the meaning of the line.

3) Record and Listen to Your Voice

As you develop your ability to speak powerfully, record yourself reading poetry or parts of plays. Replay these recordings over and over, looking for ways to improve your pronunciation, your delivery, and your pacing.

4) Record Phone Conversations

You can increase your level of vocal mastery by recording your side of conversations and listening to them afterwards. Every time you record and play back your own voice, you will hear different ways that you could improve your delivery and articulation next time.

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5) Focus on Pauses

The drama and power of a speech is contained in the silences that you create as you move from point to point. There are four kinds of pauses you can use to put more power into your presentations. They are, “The Sense Pause”, “The Dramatic Pause”, “The Emphatic Pause”, and “The Sentence-Completion Pause”. To learn more about the power of pausing, click here.

6) Eat and Drink Well

Energy is essential for good speaking and voice projection. Before a short talk, eat lightly. This ensures that you are bright and alert when you start speaking and that your brain is functioning at its best.

Before a long talk, it’s essential to eat well. A solid, high-protein breakfast or lunch will give you energy to burn for four to five hours. Protein is brain food, and you need it to think and speak effectively. Your voice will remain strong and your mind will stay clear.

To ensure the best possible voice, only drink room temperature water prior to and during your speech.

Coldwater can chill your vocal cords and decrease the amount of warmth in your voice. When you have a sore throat, it can be difficult to speak clearly and project that voice. If this occurs, drink hot water with lots of honey and lemon juice. This miraculous combination has saved me on several occasions.

By following these 6 steps you will drastically improve your speaking voice. The feeling of confidence and readiness that will accompany practicing these presentation skills will make you feel unstoppable. It’s a great way to overcome any stage fright that you might deal with in front of large crowds.

Public Speaking Voice Training

Whether you’re preparing for a meeting at work or are hoping to pursue a career as a professional public speaker, being able to master your public speaking voice is an incredible skill that you can truly use in any situation.

If you’re looking to join the world of high-paid professional speaking, reserve your spot today.

If you’d like to learn more about speaking professionally, be sure to check out my other public speaking tips. You can also browse my public speaking resource page to see a collection of my best blogs, videos, and courses for professional speakers.

About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian’s goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.

How to project your normal speaking voice

Your voice is a personal calling card. People listen to the quality of your tone, and often make quick judgments about whether you’re strong or weak, assertive or compliant, respectable or negligible. Your social acceptability and professional promoability are determined in part by the charismatic (or lack thereof) quality of your voice. The sound of your voice influences whether others treat you as superior, equal or inferior every day of your life.

In my twenty years of helping people improve their voice as a communication coach, it’s evident that most people with a weak and/or unattractive voice are so because of social, gender, and/or cultural reasons. Below are some examples:

1. A male client who has a soft voice told me that, as a child, his parents always scolded him if he spoke loudly. Over the years, he simply forget how to access his most attractive and powerful voice.

2. A female client spoke with me about the gender double standard of her culture, where men have more permission to use their full voice, while women are restricted to a softer, gentler voice. She was so used to this social conditioning that she now struggles to be heard and taken seriously.

Here are four common voice levels, excerpted from my book (click on title): “How to Improve the Sound of Your Speaking Voice.”

Most of us have heard someone with a nasal voice. It has that high pitched, almost whiny quality which can turn people off in a hurry. This is not the type of voice which helps one’s professional or social life.

Some people use the mouth voice. The mouth voice makes sounds but is not very powerful. I will not go into here the cultural, gender, social, and/or psychological factors which may contribute to this type of voice. It suffices to say that people who use the mouth voice can sometimes feel invisible: they’re overworked, under-appreciated, neglected of their needs, and passed over for recognition. The person with the mouth voice cries out to be heard, but more often than not no one is really paying attention.

Many women and men use the chest voice. This is the type of voice that sounds pleasant enough, and can generally maintain listener interest. There’s nothing negative about the chest voice, except that it is not the best possible voice.

For all of us, our best, strongest, most attractive and most natural voice comes from the diaphragm. A person who uses the diaphragm voice commands attention, “sounds” more attractive socially, and is more likely to be perceived as a promotable leader. The diaphragm voice is the best sounding voice for both women and men.

So, what can you do to access your most optimum voice? Here are a few suggestions*:

1. Breathe right. People who don’t speak from the diaphragm also don’t breathe from the diaphragm. To breathe correctly, simply inhale and let your belly rise, and exhale and let your belly fall. Breathing is the most fundamental activity we engage in to sustain life. Proper breathing can relax us physically, sharpen us mentally, calm us emotionally, and solidify us psychologically. If we breathe right, everything else about us will begin to fall into place.

“To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds.”

― Thich Nhat Hanh

“Breathing. corresponds to taking charge of one’s own life.”

2. Make sounds based on diaphragmatic breathing. Whether you’re singing, speaking, chanting, laughing, or even yawning, develop the habit of projecting from your diaphragm.

3. Take a singing or acting class. Many of these courses begin with vocal warm ups from the diaphragm. These classes can be a lot of fun!

4. Work with a private voice coach. In my voice coaching sessions, most clients are able to access their best (most powerful and attractive) voice in about one hour. The rest is simply practicing vocal exercises until the “new” voice is progressively internalized. For more information on fee-based professional voice coaching, e-mail me at [email protected]

In conclusion, our voice is a beautiful instrument, but many of us forget to take full advantage of this wonderful gift. Access your best voice, and you’ll access your best self!

How to project your normal speaking voice

For more tips on voice improvement, see my book (click on title): “How to Improve the Sound of Your Speaking Voice.”

*Footnote: In cases where there’s vocal damage due to factors such as smoking, drinking, excessive use, or other types of injury, seek appropriate medical attention.

Have confidence in the value of your contributions to meetings!

Maybe it’s the oversized table. The looming presence of your manager. Or the loud co-worker who hogs the mic. Whether your meeting is face-to-face or online, it’s easy to feel anxious, self-conscious and lost for words.

Worse still, when you do speak up and share your thoughts, you’re ignored or “shot down” by bigger voices. Although it can feel like you’re the only one struggling at meetings, you’re not alone. And just as others overcome their self-consciousness and speak up, so will you!

Why Make Your Voice Heard?

Meetings are a key way to get yourself noticed . When you “hold your own” in a meeting, you show that you’re confident and proactive, and this can mark you out as a future leader.

Unfortunately, your colleagues can’t read minds. So no matter how many great ideas you have in your head, they’re useless to you, your team, and your organization until you express them.

Let’s look at seven ways to build your confidence and gain a sense of control that will allow you to make a valuable contribution to your next meeting.

How to Get Yourself Heard

1. Have Confidence in Your Own Value

Chances are, you’ve been invited to the meeting because you have something to offer. You’re wanted and valued – so be confident! You’ll likely have expert knowledge or skills related to the topic being discussed. Or perhaps your manager thinks that it’s a good learning opportunity for you, and they’re interested to see how you perform in this situation.

If the reason for your attendance is unclear, ask your manager or the meeting’s organizer. If you don’t have to be there, have the confidence to politely decline. After all, unnecessary meetings are time-consuming and expensive – consider the hourly rate of everyone present!

2. Ask Questions

If putting your own idea or view across is too nerve-racking, begin by asking questions about what other attendees are saying. This shows that you’re attentive, engaged and interested.

To avoid any tendency to go blank with fear in meetings, come armed with a few questions. But be careful that you don’t ask so many that you delay the meeting.

3. Speak up for Others

Learning to push yourself forward can be hard, but most of us tend to find helping and praising others easier. So start building up your confidence by looking out for fellow attendees.

For example, if someone says something that you agree with, say so. After giving them credit for their idea, you might want to build on it by adding your own ideas. Also, you could steer attention back to someone who got interrupted with a simple, “Ayesha, what were you going to say?”

When you become confident about speaking up for others, you’ll feel less self-conscious about speaking up for yourself.

Remember that your nonverbal cues speak volumes. Maintaining eye contact with the person speaking and nodding in agreement shows that you’re alert and respectful. Read on for tips to pick up these signals in virtual meetings.

4. Be One of the First to Speak

Author of “The Power of Presence” Kirsti Hedges advises you get your idea out there in the first few minutes. As she says, “The vibe of the meeting is set early, and by contributing then, you’re establishing yourself as an active participant.” [1] So, take the lead and be assertive .

Be aware that assertive isn’t the same as aggressive, and that being early to speak doesn’t mean always being the first!

5. Embrace the Skills of Introversion

If you’re an introvert , you’ll likely be reflective, strategic, and observant. You can draw on these attributes in two ways. In the lead-up to the meeting, research the subject under discussion and plan what you want to say or ask. And once you’re in the meeting, use your active listening skills to summarize what’s being said, show that you value others’ opinions, and offer your own considered point of view.

6. Give Your Idea the Advantage

If you can, get yourself on the agenda so that you’ll have a guaranteed opportunity to speak. If this isn’t possible, let everyone know in advance that you have something you want to share.

If you use apps such as Asana or Mural, for example, you can post questions and ideas ahead of the meeting. Writing these out will also help you to articulate your thoughts.

7. Keep It Short, With No Apology

Start and end your contribution with conviction. Avoid opening with an apologetic “I’m sorry, but…” This will immediately weaken your position. Start strongly but politely with, “I’d like to say…” or “Can I just add…?”

Once you’ve said what you want to say, simply finish speaking. Or if you’re on a virtual call, close with, “Over to you, Susan.” People will appreciate your efficient delivery.

Avoid saying, “I disagree.” People hear this and immediately feel confronted and annoyed, and may stop listening to you. It’s far better to say, “I see it a little differently, because…”

Getting Heard in Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings bring their own unique challenges. It can be tougher, for example, to pick up on the visual and behavioral cues that help natural conversation flow. When you do jump in to speak, time lags can leave you talking over other attendees.

These awkward silences and stutters make us more self-aware and can result in “Zoom fatigue” – that is, exhaustion caused by video calls.

To help yourself speak up in online meetings:

  • Test your tech. Before your video call, check that you can log in to the software, test your mic, and find a camera angle you’re happy with. You could also do a trial-run call with a friend. That way, you can focus on the conversation and not worry about technical gremlins.
  • Reduce distractions. Tidy your remote workspace and close other apps that could take your focus off the meeting. If you feel self-conscious on screen, configure your video call settings so that you only see the speaker and/or other attendees. Some apps also have “background blur” to keep attention on you.
  • Maintain eye contact. If attendees see your eyes wander off screen, their attention may drift away. So, look into the lens of your camera, just like you would the eyes of a friend you’re talking to in person. Looking around all attendees in “group view” also helps you to maintain eye contact without staring.
  • Check online meeting etiquette. Some teams have unofficial guidelines for online meetings. Like asking participants to turn off their cameras or mute themselves while others speak. Ask in advance how you can raise points. Do you use the chat feature, for example, or turn on your camera and hold up your hand?

After some practice with these tips, you might find it easier to contribute to remote meetings. You can also explore opportunities to build your confidence, such as giving presentations to larger groups.

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Anytime you are speaking or singing in front of the crowd, no matter the size, you want to be sure that you are delivering clear sound in a proper tone. Public speaking or singing voices are not something that we were all born with; many of us have to work at it. This guide will provide you with a few solutions if you are wondering how to project your voice.

6 Tips to Help Project Your Voice

Proper Breath Support

Taking proper deep breaths before each phrase supports your tone and increases your volume by ten-fold. The idea of breath support is muscle antagonism, which means two sets of opposing muscles working with each other. This requires a conscious effort to be made as it means to project your voice; you need a slow exhale which can only be achieved by resisting the muscles designed to push air out; to do this, use the biggest muscle of inhalation, your diaphragm. With slow exhalation, the rib cage should stay expanded and the chest should stay high.

Open It Up

If you really want to project your voice, open up the back of your throat. The space behind the tongue creates a resonance chamber which propels sound forward, not unlike a hall that is well-designed to help sound reach the ears of your listeners naturally. To achieve this, imagine an egg stuck in your throat, pretend to smell a rose or imagine the feeling of a yawn. Opening up your throat will greatly project your voice.

Voice Placement

Pretending you are wearing a Mardi Gras mask will help you learn how to project your voice, as this is one of the easiest and quickest tricks of projection. Place your voice into the mask, which is located below the eyes and along the nose, as this is where vibrations are felt when speaking or singing. Opening the back of your throat while placing your voice forward into the mask will give your voice an intriguing, attractive and easy to hear sound heard by all.

Breath Threshold

A good solution for how to make your voice louder is to use breath threshold. In order to create sound, the vocal cords flap together horizontally. Vocal cords flap together by air pressure and muscular resistance. The air coming from the lungs through your vocal cords causes them to open and shut. This process results in oscillation, which causes sound. Your pitch is determined by how fast or slow the vocal cords oscillate. To produce a voice that is projected and well-balanced, it is important for you to find just the right amount of air pressure verses muscular resistance. You can sound “breathy” if you allow too much air to flow through the vocal cords or “pinched” if you are using too much muscular force. Too much muscular force can also cause damage to the vocal cords over time. You should attempt to sound “breathy” and “pinched” purposefully and then attempt to find your happy medium between the two. To achieve a voice that is beautiful and loud, the trick is to sing with as little breathiness as possible, without tension.

Energy Is Necessary for Articulation

It is found that most people don’t use the tools of articulation such as their jaw, tongue and lips with enough energy to produce consonants that are crisp and clear. Articulation has a direct effect on how well your voice carries. By putting more energy into your muscles of articulation, you are lifting your voice up away from your throat muscles and into the resonators in your face, which include your cheek bones and sinus cavity. Cheek bones resemble the sounding board of a piano and your sinus cavity resonates like a big, open room, which creates a voice with more resonance that will project better to listeners.

Think Big in Terms of Your Voice

Avoid trying to push your voice to become louder as this will most likely make you hoarse and may even do damage to your vocal cords. To project your voice, imagine that the inside of your mouth and throat are as large as the room you are speaking in. This causes all of the muscles around the inside of your throat to pull away as if you were yawning. The bigger the space you have inside, the bigger the voice will be outside.

Most of us have shuddered on hearing the sound of our own voice. In fact, not liking the sound of your own voice is so common that there’s a term for it: voice confrontation.

But why is voice confrontation so frequent, while barely a thought is given to the voices of others?

A common explanation often found in popular media is that because we normally hear our own voice while talking, we receive both sound transferred to our ears externally by air conduction and sound transferred internally through our bones. This bone conduction of sound delivers rich low frequencies that are not included in air-conducted vocal sound. So when you hear your recorded voice without these frequencies, it sounds higher – and different. Basically, the reasoning is that because our recorded voice does not sound how we expect it to, we don’t like it.

Dr Silke Paulmann, a psychologist at the University of Essex, says, “I would speculate that the fact that we sound more high-pitched than what we think we should leads us to cringe as it doesn’t meet our internal expectations; our voice plays a massive role in forming our identity and I guess no one likes to realise that you’re not really who you think you are.”

Indeed, a realisation that we sound more like Mickey Mouse than we care to can lead to disappointment.

Yet some studies have shown that this might only be a partial explanation.

For example, a 2013 study asked participants to rate the attractiveness of different recorded voice samples. When their own voice was secretly mixed in with these samples, participants gave significantly higher ratings to their voice when they did not recognise it as their own.

What’s more, a complete explanation can be found in a series of early studies published years before the plenitude of reports offering the sound frequency and expectancy explanation.

Through their experiments, the late psychologists Phil Holzemann and Clyde Rousey concluded in 1966 that voice confrontation arises not only from a difference in expected frequency, but also a striking revelation that occurs upon the realisation of all that your voice conveys. Not only does it sound different than you expect; through what are called “extra-linguistic cues”, it reveals aspects of your personality that you can only fully perceive upon hearing it from a recording. These include aspects such as your anxiety level, indecision, sadness, anger, and so on.

To quote them, “The disruption and defensive experience are a response to a sudden confrontation with expressive qualities in the voice which the subject had not intended to express and which, until that moment, [s]he was not aware [s]he had expressed.”

Their following study showed that bilinguals who learned a second language after the age of 16 showed more discomfort when hearing their recorded voices in their first language – a fact not easily explained a lack of bone-conducted sound frequencies.

The complexity of vocal coordination is enormous and we simply don’t have complete, conscious, “online” control. Indeed, the vocal larynx contains the highest ratio of nerve to muscle fibres in the human body. Moreover, when hearing a recording, we have none of the control of our speaking that we usually do; it’s as though our voices are running wild.

Marc Pell, a neuroscientist at McGill University, specialises in the communication of emotion. He stands by the Holzemann and Rousey studies, saying: “when we hear our isolated voice which is disembodied from the rest of our behaviour, we may go through the automatic process of evaluating our own voice in the way we routinely do with other people’s voices … I think we then compare our own impressions of the voice to how other people must evaluate us socially, leading many people to be upset or dissatisfied with the way they sound because the impressions formed do not fit with social traits they wish to project.”

So, even though we may be surprised by the “Mickey Mouse” quality of what we actually sound like, it is the extralinguistic content of what our voices may reveal that could be more disconcerting. Yet it is unlikely that others are similarly surprised by a high-pitched aspect of your voice, and moreover others probably aren’t making the same evaluations about your voice that you might. We tend not to be critical of other people’s voices, so the chances are you’re the only person thinking about your own.

How to project your normal speaking voice

You don’t have to put up with a thin, shaky voice, says speech-language pathologist Jackie Gartner-Schmidt.

Every weekday for the month of January, TED Ideas is publishing a new post in a series called “How to Be a Better Human,” containing a helpful piece of advice from a speaker in the TED community. To see all the posts, click here.

Ever given a presentation and felt like your throat was closing up or that there was a big lump in it? Or made an important request of your boss but thought your voice sounded as shaky as Jello on a trampoline?

Turns out, you don’t suffer from some unexplained physical malady. There’s an anatomical explanation for what happens to our voices when we’re under pressure, says speech-language pathologist and University of Pittsburgh professor Jackie Gartner-Schmidt.

All humans have vocal cords — also called vocal folds since they’re folds of tissue — which sit on top of our windpipes, right behind the Adam’s apple. “The real reason we have vocal folds is to protect ourselves,” says Gartner-Schmidt. In fact, they do the very important work of preventing us from inhaling water into our lungs whenever we drink something.

But researchers have found “in experimentally induced stressful situations — be it public speaking, hearing a loud startle sound or having cold water put on your body — that the muscles around the voice box and the muscles actually inside the voice box [a.k.a. the vocal folds] react,” says Gartner-Schmidt. “They activate, and in some cases, they close altogether.”

Of course, no one wants to sound shaky, squeaky or choked up when they speak. As Gartner-Schmidt puts it, “We want our voice to reflect our strengths, not our weaknesses.” She says, “in study after study a high-pitched voice has been correlated with the perception of anxiety, not being competent, not being strong, and not being trustworthy.”

And this matters more and more now, as many of our meetings and interviews take place over conference calls or low-res video chats. As a result, says Gartner-Schmidt, “the voice is substantially taking over more and more of how we are perceived.”

To avoid this, she suggests doing this easy exercise (which she calls one of her favorites).

Hold up your index finger a few inches in front of your mouth. As you exhale steadily, make a “Wooooooo” noise (think: little kid pretending to be a ghost) for 5 to 10 seconds. Do this 5 to 10 times. (Watch her demonstrate it here.)

“This … essentially relaxes the vocal folds,” says Gartner-Schmidt. “It establishes breath and air flow and voice stability, which is the cornerstone of any strong, clear voice.”

Right before the next important occasion in which you have to speak — for work, for the toast you’re giving at a wedding, for a speech to a community board — take Gartner-Schmidt’s advice and “spend some time finding your best voice.”

Watch her TEDxPittsburgh talk here:

About the author

Mary Halton is Assistant Editor at TED Ideas, and a science journalist based in the Pacific Northwest. You can find her on Twitter at @maryhalton

Voice refers to the ability to engage in meaningful conversation, and to make a difference or impact upon key decisions. Our voice allows us to express our views, thoughts and feelings, as well as influence outcomes and manipulate contexts with words we speak.

Our tone, pitch, quality of articulation and inflection deliver subtle messages about the kind of person we are, and these components convey our mood and our feelings at a particular time. Having the capacity to project appropriate sounds can make a critical difference in the way we are perceived and treated. Overuse or misuse of our voice can lead to vocal fatigue. We use our voice every day and so it is important that we look after it.

What is Vocal Fatigue?

Strictly speaking, our voices don’t tire. Voice, after all, is air from the lungs shaped and carried in waves to the listener’s ear. Our structures that create the voice, however, can tire, work inefficiently or become damaged from overuse. Vocal fatigue is when the muscles of your larynx tire out and cause a feeling of pain.

A reduction in endurance, loudness control, pitch control as well as poor voice quality and an unstable sounding voice are often symptoms and complaints of individuals experiencing vocal fatigue.

Fatigue can be felt in the non-muscular laryngeal tissues surrounding the vocal folds. Individuals usually complain of dry mouth, a feeling of a ‘lump’ in the throat, shortness of breath, and that it takes effort to speak and maintain volume.

Why is Being Aware of our Voice Important?

Infrequent or hard exercise makes our muscles ache. The same goes for muscles required for voice. The muscles around the ribs (intercostals) and abdomen expand and contract to provide breath for speaking. Loud or excessive talking may make these muscles tire. Some people then fall into the unhealthy habit of overusing muscles of the neck to “push” the voice. These little muscles can’t fully and consistently do the work of the big muscles of the abdomen and rib areas. Thus, the neck muscles are worn out before the working day is over.

When you feel your voice dragging at day’s end, consider:

  • Human vocal folds collide 100-1000 times per second;
  • Vocal folds collide many hundreds thousands times per day;
  • Increasing pitch and volume increases vocal fold friction;
  • High or loud talking makes vocal tissues tire faster;
  • Most people speak frequently each day, five days a week

Preventing Vocal Fatigue – Vocal Hygiene

Muscles tire as “good” chemicals (nutrients, etc.) are consumed and waste products (lactic acid) build up in muscle fibres. Our blood flow transports nutrients to muscle fibres and carries away lactic acid. Because our circulatory systems work constantly, chemicals exchange quickly, meaning we can recover from muscle fatigue fairly easily however, we can also implement vocal hygiene strategies to elevate or prevent fatigue.

Vocal hygiene involves taking steps to keep your vocal folds healthy and your voice strong and clear and can include:

  • Drink water regularly throughout the day, especially if you are speaking frequently. Our vocal folds are covered by a thin layer of mucous. … Adequate consumption of water is vital to keeping the mucosal layer moist.
  • Reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption to prevent the vocal folds from drying out.
  • Avoid shouting and yelling. Use alternatives such as whistling or waving to gain attention or walk over to the person who you wish to speak with.
  • Avoid irritants such as dust, sprays and smoke.
  • Avoid talking over background noise. For example, turn down the radio or television when you are talking, move to a quieter area when you have to speak in a noisy area or wind up the windows in traffic.
  • Avoid throat clearing and excessive coughing. If you do have to clear your throat, do it gently. Try sips of water, sucking on a lolly (not anything containing menthol) or a dry swallow instead of throat clearing.
  • Avoid speaking or singing if you have a sore throat. Particularly avoid the use of aspirin for pain relief as this may increase the likelihood of damage to the vocal folds. If you have to talk loudly to project your voice for long periods, ensure that you know the correct voice projection techniques. Alternatively use a microphone.
  • Ensure you have vocal rest after speaking for a prolonged amount of time.

Vocal fatigue is something everyone experiences, so it is important to be aware of how to look after our voice. However, if you feel that you have consistent symptoms of vocal fatigue, that it is painful to talk for long periods of time, that your voice (or lack of) is getting in the way of your job or livelihood, or that you had a cold or upper respiratory infection and your rough voice never went away, it is important to seek further advice from a speech pathologist.

At Gen Physio, we have a friendly team of professionals that are dedicated to changing the lives of our clients. All of our clinicians are mobile and come to your own home to conduct an examination. Give us a call on 1300 122 884 to book your mobile speech therapy service today.