When you are presenting or delivering a speech, one of the most powerful, and frequently overlooked elements you have at your disposal, is the power of your voice. In working with any client, even over a short period of time, one of my key strands to improving their delivery is to enable them to find their voice.

Many people I work with don’t like this because they have come to dislike the sound of their own voice. Remember this scene in The Man With Two Brains? [Not workplace friendly]:

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Unless your voice genuinely sounds like nails being dragged down a blackboard, don’t sweat it – you’re no better or worse than the majority of people on that front. Now, I’ll grant you it would be lovely if you sounded like Patrick Stewart, Judi Dench, Richard Burton, Anna Deveare Smith or James Earl Jones but most of us are stuck working with what we’ve got – operative word: working.

If you want to speak in public, you have to work on your voice and that means becoming consciously aware of it and its tweaks and nuances. We’ll talk about exercises in future posts, but for now, you need to turn off the radio in the car and start speaking loudly and resonantly to yourself, easing and stretching your voice. Every now and then, hit the ‘Record’ button on your laptop, MP3 player or mobile phone, and evaluate yourself. Are you audible? Clear and distinct? Or rushed and gabbling? Watch other presenters – top players online and also the good and the bad in your direct professional circle.

Start to become properly aware of this core tool in your kit. If you find presenters / speakers who impress you, define why they impress you. At this stage, we’re not talking about content or narrative. Just think about the way they speak and the tonality of their voices. I could listen to Mr Steven Fry reading from the phone book and find it a pleasant experience. Listen to him reading a Roald Dahl story or some Oscar Wilde or just speaking on one of his podgrams, and you’ll see what I mean. Forget the accent – we don’t all have the benefit of a British Public School and Cambridge education – listen rather, to the enunciation, the pacing and pausing, the breath control.

The first step to finding your voice is to become aware of it. Get chattering.