A mantra of our public speaking techniques is breathe in and speak out. Breathe in to fill your lungs, and once they’re filled, use the air in your lungs to power your voice.
From the dawn of time until the advent of the microphone, public speakers had to be able to project their voices at great volume. Imagine Caesar addressing the Roman legions, or Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address to upwards of fifteen thousand listeners—outdoors and without amplification!
Today there remain some stage performers with extraordinary breath control and volume. Classical singers and stage actors are still trained to be loud enough to project to the last row of the balcony. Opera singers, in particular, are the Olympians of music-making—the sheer strength of the compressed air in their lungs allows them to be heard over an entire symphony orchestra.
During your career, you may need to fill a large space with your unamplified voice, and be heard by the listeners in the back of the room. Only consistent breath control will make every word audible.
It is natural for your voice to trail off at the end of a sentence as you run short of breath.When listeners cannot understand a speaker, it is often the case that the endings of sentences are too soft. To be loud enough, do what singers and actors do: use your abdominal and rib cage muscles to stay loud—or get louder—as the sentence comes to an end.
Delivering a long speech sometimes causes vocal fatigue. It’s important to understand that the solution for a tired voice lies not in your larynx, but in your abdomen. Your voice tires from a lack of breath support. If there is not enough air passing over your vocal cords, you will add stress and tension to your throat as you attempt to project. This makes you sound worn out and eventually hoarse. When you feel your voice getting tired, focus on your breath support. Work the abdominal muscles more vigorously as you inhale.
Breathe mindfully when pausing briefly between topics. Pause longer between sentences to breathe deeper. Breathing from the belly will project, and ultimately, save your voice.