Vocal coaches do not just coach those who sing. Just as people who want to improve their singing voice will seek out voice coaches to help them learn how to match pitch, sing out, and increase their range, vocal lessons can also be utilized for those who wish to improve their speaking voice, work on their stage presence, or learn how to speak more clearly and effectively in front of an audience. Public speakers train to use the stage in almost the same way as a singer, and there are several ways that a voice coach can help make a difference in your public speaking.
1) Warm-Up Exercises
When taking voice lessons, one of the first things that every singer does is warm up their voice by doing a series of exercises with their coach. Think of this as stretching out your voice to prepare it, like how a runner might before starting a race. This technique is highly important because warming up your vocal cords and folds helps to get your voice ready to project and fluctuate. The more warm-ups you’re able to do to work the voice, the better it will feel when it is time for you to deliver a speech, making it easier to talk for long periods of time without your voice feeling strained or tired. Warm-ups are something that you should do every day with your voice to consistently improve and strengthen it.
2) Diction, Enunciation, and Speech Limitations
Another aspect of voice lessons that can help the public speaker is proper diction. When you are speaking in public, the words you say are the key ingredient to your success. So it makes sense that every single word you say needs to be heard. If you are a fast talker or don’t take enough breaths before getting all of the words out, the ends of your sentences will fall short and people won’t be able to hear what you’re saying.
Tracy Reina, a professional vocal coach in New York City through Music To Your Home, says that:
“Diction is probably one of the most missed practices in vocal coaching. If your words aren’t heard, the story is completely lost by your audience, and they will miss the message.”
In many cases, people who have speech “impediments” or aspects of the voice they find limiting can be corrected or sometimes completely eradicated through the use of a vocal coach. Some speech limitations can be adjusted with a simple placement of the tongue (if someone speaks with a lisp), or the use of corrective breathing and reduction of tension in the mouth/jaw. There are numerous technical exercises a vocal coach can introduce to someone with limitations, like in this clip from the movie The King’s Speech.
3) Conviction and Purpose
Not only is it important to get your words across, but you should do so with feeling. You need to believe that what you are saying holds value and that those who hear it need to appreciate that value as well. Vocal coaches will teach singers how to connect with their songs in order to pour the right emotion into it, and the same goes for public speakers. You need to speak with a true conviction to get your point across because it will grab the attention of your listeners when they can feel how passionate you are when you speak.
Along with having conviction and purpose, connection (not just with words) is something you should have with those you are speaking to. Roger Love is a voice coach who has not only trained singers but worked with some influential and powerful public speakers like Tony Robbins and Suze Orman. He stresses how important it is to connect to your audience through various tactics, like knowing where to look and to establish good eye contact, because engaging them in a visual way helps people to feel included and more likely to take in what you are saying.
His advice on establishing connections with the audience is to “Gaze at one person for a count of one, two, three; then move on to another person.” He also emphasizes the importance of dressing the part, because if you dress confidently, it helps you to feel confident; and using notes to help you but to not memorize the speech, because then it doesn’t feel genuine.
5) Posture and Breathing
Voice coaches will also take time to stress on using proper posture, especially for breathing. When you sing or speak, you need to engage your diaphragm to take in a good breath that will support your phrases. This also helps you to not be “gulping” air in and allows you to deliver your speech without fading out towards the end of sentences.
Think of your speech like a performance. It is similar to performing a song, you’re just only using words. You want to move about your stage or area with purpose, as well as have a commanding presence. Training to have good posture and work on breathing techniques will aid you in feeling more relaxed and confident for your presentations.
6) Pitch and Expression (Dynamics)
One of the things that a vocal coach can help you identify is the best pitch for your speaking voice, or, what range you are most comfortable speaking in. This will help because the habits we establish for speaking don’t always use our optimum sound or where our comfort zone necessarily is. When you are able to find that desired pitch and tone for a more natural sound that is unique to you, it will help you to feel more relaxed and be more likely to attract attention as you speak.
Expression is something you will also be trained in because nobody likes to listen to the same mundane sound over and over. It is important to create some color in your voice so that it catches your listeners attention, and provides a rich sound. Think about when you talk to your friends or family about something that truly excites you – your voice changes. That’s what voice coaches note as inflection – where you utilize dynamics within the voice and engage the audience with your expression.
7) Practice, and Practice Some More
Voice coaches will encourage practicing not just within the lessons, but outside of your lessons as well. This is important especially if you are more of an introvert, because the practice is going to help you with overcoming that fear of public speaking. It is most beneficial for you as a speaker to constantly practice your craft. Taking voice lessons is one of the best ways to keep up with your practice regime, but the more you can do to keep improving and developing your voice, the better.
Your public speaking skills can be greatly improved with the help of a vocal coach, so it is beneficial for you to look into finding a coach that can work with you and provide you with the best tools and techniques for finding your true voice, and delivering your speeches with confidence. They will guide you with methods for speaking with passion and expression that reach your audience in a way you might not have imagined, as well as practices to keep your voice in the best shape for speaking, especially if you speak (or plan on speaking) often.