Thursday, March 25, 2010

Overcoming a Monotone Voice

Many presenters and performers struggle with having a monotone voice. We often think that we're far more colorful than we actually are. Darn! What to do about this?

Videotaping, as well as Toastmasters, aren't bad ideas. But it's also important to know specific techniques to create variation - which is the key to keeping an audience's attention, and to breaking out of monotone and other consistent habits. Doing so via emotional cues (speak lines in various tones - sad, happy, playfully, etc.) are a possibility; or, heighten various facial expressions, which then connects emotionally and changes the voice. Simply smiling should help change the tone as well; regardless of the seriousness of the topic, speaking with a smile makes it more approachable.

Another approach is to break down the vocal possibilities technically. The following are a few of the the elements that can be played with:
- volume (which sounds like it's an issue) - getting quieter is just as effective as getting louder
- pitch (higher or lower tones)
- enunciation (more enunciation highlights words)
- tempo (speaking slower or faster)

When coaching or in my advanced, workshops, I teach a vocal adaptation of Laban Movement Analysis, which gives clients many different speaking styles to work with - but this is harder to convey in a blog. Darn! But the above four are a good start.

Where to apply them? In a written speech, underline key words - be it a noun, adjective, or whatnot - and apply variation there. If you're speaking extemporaneously, it's helpful to practice with a nursery rhyme or something else you already know. By first practicing these skills with a set text, you'll then have an easier time applying it to a speech that's off the cuff.

If you give it a try, post your results and let us know how it went!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What's luck got to do with it?

Much of the time, when we have an important speaking engagement, interview or performance, we wish upon a lucky star for things to go well. Being St. Patrick's Day, let's take a look at this. Is this practical or helpful?

In my humble opinion (IMHO, as they say), it really isn't. Desiring luck is placing power outside of yourself, hoping that some unknown force in the universe will bestow upon you a positive outcome. Here are two more practical tools:

1) Utilize visualization. Really seeing, sensing and feeling yourself performing at your best. That is, fully immerse yourself sensorially in the peak experience. Feel the sensations physically in your body. See yourself calm yet energized, confident yet open. Imagine people really receiving you. See, trust and know that you're at your best, whenever you need it.

2) Warm up beforehand. Fully warm up beforehand - physically and vocally. Don't just think about what you're going to say. Performing (be it speaking, interviewing or acting) is a full contact sport. Okay, without much actual body contact, but you need to engage your entire being just as much! Engage your entire being. And if you don't know how to do this, work with an expert. It's worth it.

Leave luck to the 17th of March. Draw upon these two tips, and your pockets will surely stay green.