Being heard over background noise, or in a large or outdoor place, requires specific techniques. Surprisingly, loudness is only one component of projection. A well-placed voice can be heard better than you might think, with a couple extra tweaks.
1. Use your voice efficiently
Efficient voice use in this context basically refers to turning all your air into sound. If your voice is breathy (airy, whispery) or hoarse (scratchy, raspy), there is a lot of white noise that cuts out the actual tone.
One way we accidentally create this crunched sound is by pushing from the throat, engaging more muscles that are needed. The cruel irony of this is that when we are afraid we won’t be heard, it is likely that we will push. And this very pushing is what dampens the sound.
This post on best vocal practice has great information on this – don’t be deterred by the title, it’s for everyone!
Louder speech also takes more breath than quiet speech, so being able to connect your voice to breath is necessary for projection. My post on controlling your breath in speech has lots of specifics about what this means and how to attain it.
2. Speak clearly
Clear diction can be just as important as a clear/loud vocal tone.
People often conflate the ideas of being able to hear someone and being able to understand them. We often think we can’t hear when the real issue is that we can’t understand the words.
It is common for speakers to mumble and not move their mouth much in our current society. Whether this is related to media, perceptions of what “cool” looks like, or myriad other things is a topic for another day. The fact remains that many people aiming to project would benefit from moving their mouths more when they speak.
The two main things to consider here are:
- Say all your sounds
- It’s easy to skip sounds and syllables, and to stop energized talking before the final sound is out. Making sure you say all of the sounds in a word helps people understand, which helps with projection.
- Open your mouth enough for the sound to get out
- Seems so obvious, but the sound has to have room to get out of your mouth. If you don’t open your jaw or move your lips, your voice won’t travel past your own face.
- Another component here has to do with acoustics. Creating particular mouth shapes can actually amplify sounds and make them seem louder. Play around with this using an audio recorder to see if you can make sounds louder or softer by clenching or opening your mouth/throat.
My post “Don’t let your mask stop you from being heard” has some great tips and strategies for mouth movement and finishing your sounds.
3. Intention is the X factor
I just coached an actor who wanted to work on projection. We did exercises that brought her voice to a resonant, strong, clean place. I asked her to speak a few lines of text from her current play, and she immediately reverted to her habitual voice use, using none of what she just found.
She didn’t think about deliberately using the new technique, and because she had not fully learned it yet, there was no change. With a little prompting, however, she was able to apply the new voice use pattern to her text in a way that felt strong and clear.
Intention is as essential as attention. Attention is necessary for true learning, as defined by physical changes in the brain. These changes occur with mindful practice. While we are engraining these habits, we have the ability to summon them on command with our intention. Do it on purpose.
Sound waves that create voice are physical entities, and they actually impact the physical body of your listener. In a meeting, presentation, or play it is unlikely that you will physically touch your audience, except for with your voice.
I’m going to say that again. Your voice can literally touch your audience. And your intention to reach them is vital. With the same instrument, you can either reach out or hide. It’s up to you.
If you’d like some personalized coaching on projecting your voice, get in touch to schedule a session.