When you speak, your voice is your most important tool. It influences the impact of your speech and can make or break its success.

Fortunately, just like playing a musical instrument, you can learn to use your voice to increase your power and persuasiveness in any conversation or speech that you give. All you need is a little guidance.

1. Slow down.

When you speak more slowly, your voice has more power and authority. Your listeners have an opportunity to absorb and reflect on what you’re saying.

You exude confidence, and you lend your words greater importance.

All powerful people speak slowly, enunciate clearly, and express themselves with confidence. Loud, confident speaking is powerful and moving.

When you speak too rapidly, your pitch increases, often to something squeaky and child-like. This decreases the impact of your words and your influence on the audience because listeners downgrade the importance or value of what you are saying.

2. Use voice exercises.

The human voice is like a muscle. It can be made stronger with exercise and use. Many people with weak voices have become powerful, confident speakers by building their voices over time with exercise.

Try this exercise: Memorize a piece of poetry and recite it regularly as you drive or walk around. Imagine that you’re making a dramatic presentation on a stage, in front of a large number of people. Put emotion and strength and emphasis and energy into the words. Go slowly. Change the emphasis on each word in the line of poetry, thereby changing the meaning of the line.

3. Record and listen to your voice.

As you develop your ability to speak powerfully, record yourself reading poetry or parts of plays. Replay these recordings over and over, looking for ways to improve your pronunciation, delivery and pacing.

4. Record phone conversations.

You can increase your level of vocal mastery by recording your side of conversations and listening to them afterwards. Every time you record and play back your own voice, you will hear different ways that you could improve your delivery and articulation next time.

5. Focus on pauses.

The drama and power of a speech is contained in the silences that you create as you move from point to point. There are four kinds of pauses you can use to put more power into your presentations. These are: “The Sense Pause”, “The Dramatic Pause”, “The Emphatic Pause”, and “The Sentence-Completion Pause”. (To learn more about the power of pausing, click here.)

6. Eat and drink well.

Energy is essential for good speaking and voice projection. Before a short talk, eat lightly. This ensures that you are bright and alert when you start speaking, and that your brain is functioning at its best.

Before a long talk, it’s essential to eat well. A solid, high-protein breakfast or lunch will give you energy to burn for four to five hours. Protein is brain food, and you need it to think and speak effectively. Your voice will remain strong, and your mind will stay clear.

To ensure the best possible voice, only drink room temperature water prior to and during your speech.

Cold water can chill your vocal chords and decrease the amount of warmth in your voice.

When you have a sore throat, it can be difficult to speak clearly and project that voice. If this occurs, drink hot water with lots of honey and lemon juice. This miraculous combination has saved me on several occasions.

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