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No Speech Lessons!
by Andrew E. Schwartz

As an effective presentor, a good voice is your primary tool. Speaking voices of both beginners and experienced presentors are often weakened by carelessness and bad habits which diminish the overall effect of their presentation. Because of this, a presentor must constantly evaluate his or her voice. It is possible to do this in two steps without taking special voice lessons, by listening to it as others would hear it, and by practicing proper speaking until it becomes a habit.

Listen: Make and listen to a good recording of your voice, and compare it to the voices of other presentors. If available, use high-fidelity equipment, but good office dictating equipment can suffice. (Where video tape systems are available, you will have opportunity to see and hear yourself). Choose about five minutes worth of text on a familiar subject. Look ahead for ends of sentences and paragraphs to use as pauses for breathing. Test the recording equipment for proper microphone distance and recording volume. Start the equipment, pause for ten seconds, breathe deeply, and begin. Read the passage aloud several times, making sure of pronunciation and punctuation. Remain as relaxed as possible; do not strain or hurry. Reading in solitude will help. Keep your voice natural and conversational. Speak from as deeply within your body as comfortably. This will give you a recording sufficient for self-evaluation and practice.

Play your recording several times, listening to the way you have pronounced individual words and sounds. Gradually your ear will develop a new sensitivity and alertness. Careful listening and objectivity will allow you to identify areas of your voice which need improvement

While listening to the recording, especially at the beginning, many people find themselves saying “That doesn’t sound like me”. This is because the sound absorption, conduction, and resonance of your own body structures and cavities tend to distort what you hear. You also will discover imperfections which you never knew you had, such as dropped endings, slurred syllables, and accents. Most of these can be corrected with practice, and there are few life activities where more opportunity for practice is afforded than in speaking.

Andrew E. Schwartz, CEO, A.E. Schwartz & Associates of Boston, MA a comprehensive management training and professional development organization offering over 40 skills specific programs and practical solutions to today's business challenges.

Copyright, AE Schwartz & Associates. All rights reserved.
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