A fellow BPTC student convinced me to attend, I was sceptical. I have a good voice, it projects well, I don’t mumble and I don’t get nervous; a talk about how to use my voice was pointless. Or so I thought…
Voice coaching is so much more than just about nerves or overcoming shyness. It is about breathing, enunciation, pace, tone, pitch, posture and diet!
For example, I learned that if one doesn’t pause to think, one does not pause to breathe. Breathing should be slow and deep from the stomach rather than shallow and fast from the lungs.
A speaker who doesn’t take the time to breathe properly will deliver at such a pace that the listeners would scarcely understand. Shallow frequent breathing makes the speaker sound hesitant, unstructured and possibly unprepared. Not much good for a closing speech to keep a 17 year old out of prison.
Time must be taken to enunciate words which will slow down the delivery. This helps the listener to understand and pay attention. Grabbing their Lordship’s attention is paramount for all budding QCs appearing at the Court of Appeal, the pitch is also very important (take it down for gravity or take it up for emphasis). Similarly, the tone; if it is as flat as a pancake, their lordships might start day dreaming about their holiday homes in France and that delicious crepe in the village café.
My favourite part of the evening was the various exercises. We had to exercise our lips, our tongues, our throats and our jaws. It is hard to describe what we had to do, but any nature programme featuring orangutans will give you the general idea. Putting jokes aside, the facial exercises are very important to relax and stretch the muscles, to clear the throat and to generally prepare the vocal chords for the onslaught of several hours of speaking.
Posture also has a part to play. Correct posture means standing with firm knees but not tense, feet should be shoulder length apart, and the head must be centred to the shoulders not titled to one side or the other. Slouching is rude and over casual and puffing one’s chest is seen as arrogant and aggressive.
Eating chocolate or dairy products before a speech is a huge no-no. Apparently they wreak havoc on the vocal chords.
I am no longer sceptical. Voice coaching techniques are crucial for any public speaker and I recommend attending talks on the subject at the next available opportunity.
Want to know more? Read tips from this event on Learnmore, courtesy of Imogen Proud.
Thanks to Heath Jamal, a student on the BPTC at The City Law School.