Speaking to a large group of people can be a daunting prospect for many people. If you are talking at a conference, or giving an in-person training session, then you will be naturally keen to get your message across clearly and confidently. If you are not used to public speaking, or want to brush up on your technique, here are a few tips to bear in mind.
Your voice is obviously your key tool for getting your ideas across to your audience. In everyday life, most of us talk naturally, without giving the matter too much thought. However, when we are speaking to a group of people, the tone of our voice becomes much more important, because it will affect the way the audience responds to you.
A confident, resonant tone will encourage your audience to relax and be more receptive to what you are saying. As the audience relaxes, you will most likely enjoy the experience more yourself, and any anxiety you were feeling beforehand will be toned down considerably.
If you are not sure how to make your voice resonate, there are some techniques you can employ. It is important to warm up your whole body before you begin to speak, to get rid of any tension in the head, neck, and shoulders. Start by shaking your limbs, and stretching them, so you are loosened up.
Shrug your shoulders up to your ears and back a few times, and roll them backwards and forwards. Roll your head, with chin to chest, clockwise, and then anticlockwise. Finally, yawn and stretch to relax the throat.
Next, work on your breathing. When you draw your breath from the lower diaphragm, and not just the upper part of the lungs, your voice will naturally become louder, clearer, and more pleasant to listen to. Place your hand on your stomach, and inhale for the count of six seconds. Pause for a second, and then exhale in a controlled manner for 6 seconds.
At the same time, keep your posture nice and loose, with your shoulders down, feet at hip width apart, and hands unclenched. Now begin to warm up your vocal cords, with a series of vowel and consonant sounds, such as ‘doo dah day dee dum, and so on.
Tongue twisters are also a good way to help you improve the fluency and diction of your speech. There’s plenty of examples you can find online, such as ‘I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream’, ‘Betty Botter bought some butter, But she said the butter’s bitter’, ‘She sells seashells by the seashore’, and many more.
Get comfortable with projecting your voice, so that it reaches the very back rows of the audience. If you can, visit the conference venue before your talk, and bring a colleague or friend along.
Ask them to sit at the back of the room, and draw your breath from your diaphragm to add that extra volume and vibration to your voice. The other person should be able to hear you without difficulty. Finally, make sure you speak slowly, as we have a tendency to rush when we are nervous.
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