Before I write about making yourself heard, I must correct an omission. Only this last Saturday I made a classic mistake in that I had planned to read some poems out but failed to mark the pages. A good friend tactfully pointed out that it didn’t look good and spoilt my presentation. I shall try to ensure that it doesn’t happen again!
If you are planning to read passages from books, magazines or poems make sure you put in bookmarks. I have made this mistake on several occasions and it is embarrassing for all if you stop to look them up while your audience twiddles their thumbs.
Now about voice projection – artificially or using what nature has given you:
There is an assumption made by many people today that microphones solve all problems of public speaking and everybody can now be heard from the front of a gathering. Lessons in voice projection are seldom taken, except by drama students. Church preachers rely on microphones to project their sermons and even speakers at pensioners’ clubs assume that the mike will let them be heard with clarity.
However, if you mumble into a microphone, all that will come out is an amplified mumble, still indistinct and useless to its hearers. Even today, it is necessary to project – speak clearly and with some power into the microphone. Stand up straight, open your lungs, breath deeply and let the air come out over the vocal cords with ease, so that your voice carries into the mike. This is not shouting – shouting strains the vocal chords and does not use the lungs properly. Enunciate distinctly; sound the ends of your words and do not speak too fast.
Some people so hate mikes that they refuse to use them, treating them with contempt. This is arrogant and unfair to the audience, some of which might be hard of hearing and relying on the loop system. I can project my voice well enough for most people, even in a large room or hall but I have learned that there are still many who need me to use the mike or they will not hear me, even if everyone else can. Treating the microphone with contempt is actually treating your audience with contempt. You might not like it, but USE IT!
If you practise projecting your voice naturally, you will have a better chance of being heard if, on some occasions, there is no mike or it fails to work. Just make sure you let the air from your lungs do the work to increase the volume and do not strain your vocal chords. It is also rude to shout. Practise this and your audiences will not be let down by equipment failure. Those who are hard of hearing might find it difficult if they need the loop system but most people will hear you.
Next post: Ensuring the subject is suitable for the audience.