Learn How to Project Your Voice
See if this sounds familiar:
You go out on a Friday night to bars and clubs, shout at the top of your lungs so your friends can hear you over the loud music, and then later when walking on the quiet street… you’re still shouting!
Your body got accustomed to speaking louder, so “loud” became the norm.
People who work in nightlife for years often develop stronger vocal cords and naturally become louder over time.
When I was younger I was always very quiet. People would ask me to repeat myself, sometimes more than once.
But I never quite thought about actually permanently increasing the volume of my voice.
How to Project Your Voice in a Loud Setting
Then I moved to New York City.
New York is a loud city full of distractions. You have to raise your voice just to order a sandwich so the cashier can hear you.
Inside shops and stores, they are usually playing music and have lots of other noises (coffee grinders, stove tops, lunatics shouting conspiracy theories against the government, etc).
Even just walking down the street chatting with your friend necessitates loudness.
Fire engine sirens, car horns, boom boxes, street salesmen and other distractions risk drowning your voice in a sea of sound.
Living in New York I naturally increased my volume out of necessity.
So if you’re wondering how to project your voice, here are three simple tips:
1. Put Yourself in Situations Where Getting Loud is Required
And do this frequently to get as much practice as possible. These situations might include:
- Conferences and busy networking events
- Bars and clubs
- Sporting events
- A noisy intersection in a busy part of town
- A busy restaurant or diner
- A crowded market or shopping mall
Carrying on a normal conversation in a loud setting will force you to get louder automatically. The more you practice, the better you will get.
2. Talk to People From a Distance
One great way to learn how to project your voice is to create distance between yourself and others.
This will force you to raise your voice so they can hear you better.
However far away you usually stand or sit from people when speaking to them, try backing up a bit to force yourself to get loud.
A good rule of thumb is to speak to a point 3 feet behind the person’s head.
For example, if you’re standing 6 feet away from someone, try to speak loud enough so that someone standing 9 feet away could hear you clearly.
3. Use an App to Visualize Your Volume
These apps help you get louder and project your voice by giving you a real-time visualization of how loud you are speaking.
You can practice on your own by talking with the app running, or you can have it running in the background while having a conversation or speaking in a meeting.
Keep an eye on the graph to see how loud you are relative to your baseline or “normal” speaking volume.
These apps are not perfect, but they are surprisingly effective in helping you learn how to project your voice.
4. However Loud You Think is “Too Loud,” Speak Louder
In my experience, people who are afraid of being “too loud” are not even close to being too loud. Instead they are way too quiet.
When you start to raise your volume for the first time, it’s natural to feel a little uncomfortable.
But you will also probably notice you can get through a conversation without other people saying “what?” five times.
You can always adjust downward from being too loud (if you reach that point… which you probably won’t).
But right now you probably need to get louder, not quieter, so try to push yourself so others can hear you better.
Use the rough estimate of “20% louder.” It’s not a hard-and-fast number, but it does give you something specific to strive for.
5. Breathing and Airflow
Your voice is nothing more than air molecules vibrating against each other. Therefore, there is no voice without air.
If you have very little air in your lungs, then your voice will be weak.
At the extreme, when you get “the wind knocked out of you,” for a moment you can’t breathe or make a sound. A blunt force to the abdomen causes the diaphragm to spasm. This prevents the lungs from filling with air briefly, which makes speaking almost impossible.
By contrast, when you have an abundance of air in your lungs, you can project your voice much more easily.
Make sure you breathe adequately and there is plenty of air cycling in and out of your lungs.
More air means more fuel for your voice.
With lots of air, you will notice that it’s much easier to project your voice, a further distance, with minimal effort.
If you are giving a long presentation or speaking at length in a meeting, make sure you take the time to breathe periodically and nourish your lungs with plenty of air.
6. Speak From Your Diaphragm
The diaphragm is a muscle located just beneath the lungs. It’s active in many essential bodily functions, including breathing and speaking.
Take a deep breath in (down into your belly), and then speak. This will activate your diaphragm.
Your voice will sound and feel different than if you speak from your throat or your nasal passages.
And to get a really good sense of how to speak “from your diaphragm”, watch something funny.
When you let out a genuine laugh “haha!” your diaphragm contracts and forcefully expels air from your lungs.
Notice the feeling of the contraction in your gut and how a lot more air comes out when you laugh.
That’s the kind of power and force you want to be using when you are learning how to project your voice.
7. Straight Posture and Open Body Language
One reason people struggle with projecting their voice is because their posture is terrible.
When you are hunched over, your lungs are crumpled up and take in less air (and less air means a weaker voice).
Also your wind pipe is obstructed, and your mouth may be pointed downward. All of this makes it harder for others to hear you clearly.
When you sit up straight or (even better) stand straight, your chest cavity opens up, allowing your lungs to take in more air.
And when you have straight posture, your mouth is oriented straight outwards, not downwards. The combination of all of this makes you louder.
If you’re working on how to project your voice, having good posture is a must.
8. Wherever Your Audience is, Target a Point 20% Further Away, and Speak to That Place
If you’re speaking to a small group of people sitting in front of you, imagine they are sitting 20% further away.
If you’re giving a presentation on a stage to a room of 100 people, then look at the back wall and imagine the room is 20% larger. Speak to the larger room.
Doing this consistently will make strong vocal projection effortless over time.
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