This article is part of public speaking and toasting

Before we dive in, I would like to point out that whilst there are some good professional courses available on-line and on-line courses in this particular area can never be as good as attending a class with a professional voice coach. There is enough information laying around on the ground (internet), to get you well and truly started, and up to a good standard of confidence. You just need to bend down and pick it up so to speak. The trick is, knowing what to search for, and once you have the required information, setting out an action plan and sticking to it.

With that said, lets get started.

In order to sound clear, confident and professional whilst speaking, we need to break down the art of speaking into subsets. These subsets will have more or less importance to you, depending on your strengths and weaknesses.

1. Articulation

Articulation involves enunciating words and phrases correctly, clearly, and cleanly. There should be no over or under articulation, no sibilance or whistling (most commonly heard on the letter S or soft C) or lisping, and little to no mouth noise.

One of the best ways to acquire good articulation skills in speaking is to practice and repeat tongue twisters, until you can achieve the most difficult with ease and speed. For example try tongue twisters in Th, Sh, long O, H, etc.

Remember, repetition is the mother of all skills.

Some links to get you going:

2. Breathing

Enough breath should be available, so you don’t run out of air at the end of sentences or gasp for breath between or inside sentences. There should be no fading, swallowing, or gulping. Breath control also involves controlling plosives (popping P’s or hard consonants), keeping your volume consistent, and projecting appropriately. It involves managing mouth noise and throat clearing. Too much will require a lot of editing and, subsequently, audio-book companies will not hire talent who require a lot of post-production attention.

Some links to get you going:

3. Delivery

The ability to tell a story compellingly is what constitutes solid delivery. Your delivery must be appropriate to the spirit of the text and the author’s intent and must be consistent throughout the narration. As you’ll most likely be narrating over several days, your voice must match itself from day to day, both in pitch and energy.

Timing and pacing are additional elements of professional delivery and need to be appropriate to the text. Repetitive cadence and pitch patterns must be avoided at all costs – each sentence should be varied slightly so as not to become predictable. Listeners may not know what you’re going to say next, but if you’re constantly starting and ending sentences the same way, they’ll know how you’re going to say it.

Pay attention to any vocalised pauses and turn them into silent pauses. Vocalised pauses are interruptions to normal speech, and they occur because our rate of thinking is so much faster than or rate of speech, and happen when we try and synchronise what is going on in our mind to the words coming out of our mouths.

Pay attention to: Tone & Intonation, Pitch, Inflection & Rate

Some links to get you going:

4. Nervousness & Communication Apprehension

Nervousness or Communication Apprehension It is caused, most of us think by what the audience is thinking about us, or how they feel about us, so we’re looking for psychological factors as a cause of Communication Apprehension. However, this is a physiological effect caused by the body’s release of adrenaline,  resulting in an increase respiration, an increase in pace, it increases levels of perspiration.

Some links to get you going