#252: 4 Steps to Control Your Voice and Sound Confident in English | Voice Training
When was the last time you listened to a team member and thought, “oh, she sounds nervous?”
What exactly made her sound nervous? If you had closed and only listened to her voice, would you have recognized that anxiety in her voice?
In English, we describe a nervous-sounding voice as shaky, weak, quiet, and uncontrolled. When we have anxiety about speaking, our voice can betray us. Others hear that shakiness.
The good news, you can control your voice and sound confident in English. You can train your voice to be powerful and inspire trust, even if you are feeling a bit of nervousness internally.
The steps you’re going to learn today work for everyone – native and non-native speakers in any language. We all have the potential to be overcome by anxiety when speaking to an audience, whether there are 537 people or 3 people in your audience.
Gaining control of your voice ensures that you’re able to fully engage your listener with a strong, steady, and consistent voice.
Your voice can also be used as a way to project confidence and certainty. If you’re pitching an idea or presenting something on behalf of your company, the confidence in your voice can reassure and inspire trust.
4 Steps to Control Your Voice and Sound Confident in English
Step #1: Overcome Your Anxiety
There are three ways to overcome a shaky voice:
- Relax your jaw and tongue
Let’s start with breathing. When we’re nervous, we tend to take shallow breaths which only make our anxiety stronger.
To begin the process of relaxing and overcoming a shaky voice, take a moment to slow down your breathing. Take a deep breath, breathing in slowly and letting the air out slowly. If you practice yoga or meditation, you’re certainly familiar with the power of deep breathing.
However, if you’re not sure, I like to tell my students to imagine they are smelling their favorite smell. Maybe it’s walking into your grandma’s house when she makes fresh bread or your favorite dish.
Perhaps it’s the smell of a particular flower, like walking past a jasmine plant.
How do you breathe when you smell that smell? You take it all in. You breathe deep and hold it – like you don’t want to lose it.
That’s how I want you to breathe to begin that relaxation before speaking.
Once you’ve gained control of your breathing, relax your jaw and your tongue.
Have you noticed that before a big game, you’ll see football players and basketball players shaking their arms and legs before the game starts?
They are shaking out that nervousness and relaxing their muscles so they’re ready to play.
Your mouth is full of muscles and when nervous, they tend to get stiff, which means they don’t move easily.
To loosen your jaw and tongue, open your mouth slightly and close it softly. Keeping your lips slightly parted will help you maintain relaxation in this part of your face. You can also move your lips and jaw around.
Lastly, choose something or someone to fixate on while you speak.
The best choice is to fixate on something slightly above your audience’s heads and further back. If you’re in a video conference, fixate on the top part of your screen.
Not only will your listeners think you’re speaking directly to them, but it will help relieve you of the pressure that could be contributing to your shaky voice.
Step #2: Be Conscious of Your Flow
Just like overcoming anxiety and controlling a shaky voice, using your breath and pausing are also essential for maintaining flow.
In other words, you’ll slow down and be in more control rather than having your words run into one another.
That may be counter-intuitive. And you may be thinking, “Wait a minute. Slow down? Shouldn’t I speak fast for confidence and fluency?”
No. Speaking too fast, without any pauses, is a sure way to sound anxious and uncertain.
Brief pauses allow you to breathe so you support your voice and contribute to your flow.
Moreover, those pauses guarantee that your listeners can fully capture and understand everything you say. You’re clear, calm, controlled, and confident.
If you’re not sure how and where to pause while speaking, here are 3 recommendations:
- After the end of a sentence
- Before and after a word you’d like to emphasize
- In places where you would naturally write a comma
For example, let’s look at these sentences.
I have some commas and punctuation marks that indicate the end of a sentence where you should briefly pause.
First, we need to identify a strategy that resonates with our clients and allows us to move forward. From there, we can begin implementation.
To practice breathing and using pauses while speaking, I recommend that you download my How to Say What You Want in English training.
It’s a free in-depth training available on my Speak Confident English website and in it, I share the same speaking practice strategies I use with my students in Fluency School, my 6-week intensive speaking course that I offer only 2 times per year.
It’s the perfect way to use my top confidence- and fluency-building strategies right now for your English practice.
Step #3: Be Clear & Project
Once you’ve controlled the shakiness in your voice by relaxing through deep breathing and using pauses while speaking, the next step is to use that fixation from Strategy #1 to help you project your voice.
Projecting your voice doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be obnoxiously loud.
However, it does mean that you need to:
- Speak at an appropriate volume
- Ground yourself
To speak at an appropriate volume, consider your environment and your distance from your audience.
If your audience is fairly close to you at a conference room table, for example, and you’re in a small, quiet area, there’s no need to increase your volume.
However, if your audience is large and you’re in a larger room, you will need to increase your volume.
To increase your volume, imagine you need to make your voice reach your fixation point. Remember, we talked about fixating on something above your audience’s heads and further back. Project your voice so that you touch your fixation point with your volume.
If you’re able to, become familiar with your venue and/or practice adjusting your volume ahead of time.
Enunciation is also key to clear communication.
Break your words down into syllables to ensure you enunciate and pronounce your words with clarity. The key to enunciation is slowing down, so implementing Strategy #2 will help you to improve your enunciation.
To practice, select a short text and practice speaking with clear enunciation by slowing down to focus on the syllables in each word. The slower speed and breaking up of every word will make your mind conscious of the sounds and syllables.
Once you feel that you’re enunciating and speaking clearly, increase your speed and continue to focus on your enunciation.
To further strengthen your voice, ground yourself and focus on the source of your voice.
Rather than speaking simply from the throat, speak with your whole body. Be conscious of the ground beneath your feet and allow your body to relax. Then, imagine your voice resonating and rising up from your feet and projecting out of your face.
By doing this, your voice will maintain its volume and sound stronger.
Step #4: Relax and Enjoy
Finally, smile and maintain good posture.
This might sound surprising but smiling is particularly effective for calming nerves.
Smiling will not only improve the tone (mood) of your voice, but it can also help you to move past your anxiety. Studies show that smiling for even a minute can trick our brains into thinking that we’re in a relaxed and positive mood.
In addition, maintaining a good, upright posture will not only resonate positively as confidence with your audience, but it will also help you to project your voice and maintain and reinforce its strength while you speak.
After you watch…
The best thing you can do after watching this lesson is practice!
Try using these steps in your own speech. You can do that alone as a self-learning practice as I describe in my How to Say What You Want Training.
Or use these steps with a friend/coworker you trust.
If you’re struggling to find someone to practice speaking English with, join us in the Confident Women Community where women around the world practice speaking English together.
Also, I’d love to hear your top tips to control your voice and sound confident in English.
Is there a strategy you’ve learned in the past or use regularly? Share with us! Your advice might be EXACTLY what someone else in the SCE Community needs right now.
You can share your thoughts – and your questions for me – in the comments below.
P.S. Are you looking for a community to provide support, help you stay motivated, and guarantee that you grow? Check out our Confident Women Community.
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