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Vocal tips and tricks (part 1)

by Robin Zebaida

Are you about to give an important speech to a thousand delegates? Do you need to make a serious point to an errant employee? Or perhaps you just want to get your young children or students to behave  more attentively? Whatever the case, how we speak - the clarity, vocal range and expression with which we deliver our message can make the world of difference to the outcome we achieve.

I am grateful to have picked up over the decades from friends, colleagues, research or just my own experience a variety of tips and tricks concerning some of the fundamentals of verbal communication in its various forms. In my own case, these have included radio news reading, introducing music in my own concerts, lectures - live and online, and professional voice-over work. 

Four of the most important for me are:-  

  1. The power of pause

  2. The pencil trick

  3. Breathe

  4. Smile

Here are some thoughts on the first two:- 

  1. The power of pause. 

In our busy world, many of us rush from one thing to the next with barely a moment to gulp down a breath. The mobile phone in particular ensures that we are nearly always absorbed in something or even several things simultaneously. Even the moments we might once have had to look around and pause while in a queue, on a bus, or sitting on a park bench are not "wasted".

Any musician worth his salt will tell you that the silences, or "rests", in a piece of music are often the most powerful and magical moments of all. So it is with speech. Why not focus on the use of silence next time you listen to an inspiring speech or lecture on YouTube? This should be a good first step to learning to use it yourself.

     2. The pencil trick. 

          Very easily, what we want to communicate in a public forum can be compromised or even lost altogether through speaking too fast - or indeed too slowly - too quietly, or through a lack of clarity in our enunciation. One useful tip I have learnt and have often taught and used myself to enhance diction is the pencil trick: take a pencil and carefully place it horizontally between your teeth. 

          Now read your speech slowly and carefully, making sure every single consonant is clear. Pay particular attention to "ss" and "th" sounds.  (You may want to have some tissues to hand - you'll soon discover why...) For an even better vocal workout, try using an old wine cork - making sure of course you have already finished the wine! Once you have done this a couple of times, you should find that delivering the words without this encumbrance is now much easier and clearer -            perhaps a bit like the level stretch after riding a bike up a steep hill. 

          I hope you find these tips helpful and please watch out for the next blog dealing with the remaining two, breathing and smiling. 


Robin Zebaida

Voice Over Artist

Executive Voice Coach

Sitting on a Bench
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