Let’s face it: some voices are much more pleasant to listen to than others. But it’s not a matter of simply being born with a great voice or being born with a boring voice. Ultimately, you’re in control of how your voice sounds to others.
Whether you’re preparing for a big presentation at work, getting ready for a wedding speech, or just wanting to spice up your daily conversations, vocal variety is a powerful device in your toolbox. It takes hard work to master, but it’s 100% worth it.
Feeling a bit nervous about speaking in front of others? These tips will give you a confidence boost as you add variety to your speaking voice. Spending just 10 or 20 minutes a few times a week doing these exercises can help you begin to unlock your true voice.
1. Develop your range
Your pitch only matters when you’re singing, right? Not exactly. Altering your pitch is a great way to add vocal variety in public speaking.
Practice changing your pitch by purposefully oscillating between high and low. You can do this while you’re reading a news article or a paragraph from your favorite book. Try to alternate pitch on every sentence. This may feel silly, but it will develop your range and give you more control over how you sound.
2. Turn up your favorite podcast
Podcast hosts tend to have voices that make you want to keep listening. Again, this isn’t necessarily something they’re born with. Many of them have made the effort to become great orators by intentionally adding vocal variety in speech.
In this exercise, you’ll pick a podcast episode and listen intentionally to how the voices sound. Which words do they emphasize? When do they pause? How do their voices change throughout the episode?
3. Practice different emotions
One of the best ways to vary your speaking voice is to express different emotions. If you tend to not be an emotional person, you may need to practice this. Even if you rely heavily on your emotions, you may not realize how you typically convey them.
For this activity, choose one sentence to read over and over. Each time you read the sentence, change your tone to reflect a new emotion. Here are some ideas: excited, angry, disappointed, peaceful, melancholy, afraid, proud, stressed. Record yourself so you can listen back and see how you’ve improved over time.
4. Breathe the right way
How you breathe is foundational to how you sound. It’s important to develop proper breathing habits so you can stay calm and centered even when you’re nervous before a big speech or presentation.
This is a powerful technique that has worked for many Voiceplace clients. Start by taking a deep breath in through the nose, pretending you have a large balloon in your stomach. Exhale slowly, letting the balloon deflate a little at a time. Breathing well will give you the ability to speak clearly and confidently.
5. Read to your kids… or niece and nephew… or dog
Reading aloud is a great way to practice varying your speaking voice. Children’s books offer a unique opportunity because they’re typically filled with different characters, emotions, and rhythmic words. Spend some time reading to your kids, making an effort to notice how your voice changes depending on what you’re reading.
Don’t have kids? Track down your nieces and nephews or volunteer for story time at the local library. If none of these options sound appealing, just read to your dog. Maybe you’ll want to start there anyway to relieve some of the pressure.
6. Pause with power
Sometimes, silence speaks louder than words. A powerful pause can emphasize your point more than flowery words ever could.
You’ll want to practice varying the length of your pauses as well as your pace. If you’re working on a specific speech, this is the perfect time to experiment with different pauses and talking speeds to see what works best. Don’t forget to record different versions of your speech so you can compare them later.
7. Know yourself
Are you someone who tends to speak softly or one who commands attention with your booming voice? Do you speak quickly or slowly? Are your words overcharged with emotion or more monotone?
Once you know the answers to these questions, you can know how to adjust your speaking voice to add more variety. You may need to make the effort to speak quietly at times or speed up your pace. Remember to stay authentic as you implement these changes. People want to hear from the real you!
8. Find a voice coach
It’s often helpful to get some outside feedback on how to improve your vocal variety. Working with an experienced voice coach will unlock your voice like never before.
At Voiceplace, our vocal training is informed by the latest research and the power of authenticity. You’ll develop the skills to share your message with authority while remaining true to yourself. Sign up here for our free video training.