In 2018 it will be 25 years that I've been working as a professional voice teacher (singing and public speaking). My students and clients are smart, curious, and dedicated, and I'm lucky to be part of such a great community. Through them I've learned that a teacher's job (in a nutshell) is to be an example, a guide, and a resource of information. I take great care with the questions I'm asked, and I work to help each person find an answer that works for them. That said, there are some questions that seem to be universal, and can be answered in a more general way. BTW, "Public Speaking Bootcamp for Women" is coming up on Tuesday November 28th from 5-7pm in downtown Seattle. The fee is $100. Contact me directly to register: email@example.com Now to your questions:
What if I don't care about/am bored by the topic that I'm supposed to give a talk/announcement/presentation about?
You might not love the topic you're speaking on, but you can be passionate about the people you're speaking to. Focus on being a trustworthy and transparent channel of information for your audience. Speak as if the thing(s) you are saying are valuable to them directly. This is probably true, if only for a small percentage of your audience. Give your best with them in mind.
How can I learn to look in people's eyes when I'm giving a talk?
Understand that your audience's eyes are not judging you, they are receiving you. In order for them to properly focus on what you're saying and absorb it fully, they need to look right at you while you're speaking. Maintaining eye contact with them helps facilitate their trust in you, so take deep breath, raise your head, and look up.
What should I do if I mess up in the middle of my speech? Should I start over again?
There's no need re-do the beginning of your talk. Simply pause, take a deep breath, and start the "messed up" words over again. Your audience will understand your taking the time to enunciate clearly, so they can fully understand what you are saying. They will recognize that you take them seriously enough to pay them this courtesy.
How can I stop shaking before I give a public talk?
Some degree of nervousness is natural before speaking in public, and there are physical symptoms that go along with nerves, including a light flutter. Extensive practice, visualization, and work with a good coach can help you greatly reduce these symptoms and better ground yourself, but one good habit is to stabilize your blood sugar before you give a talk. Don't skip a meal! Fuel up on protein-rich meals and snacks. I always keep an extra protein bar in my purse for clients who have forgotten to eat.
What should I do if no one is paying attention while I'm delivering my speech(es)?
This is a tough one. Ask yourself some basic questions: are you speaking loud enough? Is your pacing so fast that no one can keep up, or are you so slow that you're putting them to sleep? Do you speak in a boring monotone? Is it a body language issue? Are you slouching, cowering, turning away, not looking them in the eye? These are all actions that "tell" the audience not to pay attention to you. Correct them and see what happens.
How can I make my voice louder when I'm giving a public talk?
Most "low talkers" are not getting nearly enough breath support to the voice. Learning how to take a diaphragmatic breath, and using the air as you speak, is something that a good voice coach can help with. You can also try pitching the sound of your voice a bit higher, which can help the sound travel farther. But be aware that you're going to have to get used to the sound and feeling of your full voice... are you ready to rock?
What if I "blank" in a part of my memorized talk?
Typically my clients who "blank" (forget a line or section of at talk that they have memorized) have not spent enough time visualizing themselves giving the entire talk. Practice makes perfect, and visualization is a vital part of a good practice regimen. Olympic figure skaters don't just practice triple-jumps, they visualize themselves jumping and landing perfectly, over and over. See it and be it.
What if my voice cracks when I'm speaking?
A tiny "crack" in the sound of your voice is entirely human, and usually remedied by light throat clearing. Don't over do it, or you might start to cough, which will rough up your voice further. Say "excuse me", drink a sip of water if you need to, and carry on.
How should I move my face and body while I'm speaking?
Studies have shown that actions and gestures that point upward are inviting and attractive to others. Your eyebrows, your hands, and the corners of your mouth can all make upward movements that will draw people in. It's alright to clasp your hands together at your waist, as long as you unclasp them to gesture (upward) when appropriate. Never cross your arms over your chest, or your legs over each other. Align yourself comfortably, then lift your sternum up an inch, so that your chest is relaxed and open. Breathe deeply and feel the power of this stance. Everything should flow from there.
How can I get people to take my talk seriously when I'm the youngest/ least important person in the room?
Use your physicality and voice together. Stand up to your full height, lift the sternum an inch, open your eyes and look around the room before you start talking. Breathe into the diaphragm, and speak from your belly power. Take your time. Don't uptalk (it's that thing? when the end of each sentence? goes up in pitch? and sounds like a question?). Keep your objective in mind, and don't back down. Act like someone who is confident (not arrogant), and you will be.
What if I have laryngitis? How can I strengthen my voice in time for my speech?
First the good news: full laryngitis (no sound coming out at all) is temporary. The bad news is that the human body typically needs 3 days to fully recover from it. I advise my clients to reschedule talks if they have full or even partial laryngitis, because trying to force the voice to work will only prolong the problem. Reschedule, heal, and come back strong.
How can I make my speaking voice sound more compelling?
Download your favorite book on tape, and pick a paragraph to work with. Record yourself reading that paragraph, and compare it to the sound of the actor's voice. What are the fundamental differences? Are you speaking too low, too fast, to monotone? Practice the inflection of the other voice by speaking along with it, at the same pace, using the same pitch and volume. Now take a deep breath and try it louder. Record yourself again once you've worked on it, and listen for improvements. And work with a good voice coach to help you develop your own style of speaking.