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Voice: Your Powerful Communication Tool

Release the power of your voice. Effective communication skills improve when you learn vocal skills.

Learning to use our voices well can have an amazing effect on people around us.

It's well known that less than 20% of the effect we make when we talk comes from what we actually say: the rest is body language, facial expression and tone of voice.

Actors and singers can develop huge power, so that one voice can carry over a full orchestra. This isn't because there is anything radically different in their voices, although of course some voices are bigger than others. Any one of us had huge vocal power that very few of us ever tap into.

We could all make better use of our voices.

Breathe easy
The first step is breathing. Yes, of course, we can all breathe. But mostly we use only about a third of our lung power. As breath is the power behind our voices, this is just not enough.

You could start by noticing how you are breathing now, this minute. Are your shoulders going up and down? If they are, you are using just the top of your lungs. You could be using four times as much lung power.

Your lungs are more or less shaped like a pyramid, with the smallest bit at the top. Stand tall, put your hands on your stomach, and breathe deeply. Feel your 'stomach' filling with air. (Ok, so air doesn't actually go in your stomach, but that gives you the idea). Breathe out as slowly as you can. There's a lot of air in there and breathing out can take a long time.

Practice breathing from your 'stomach' a few times and then, on one of the outward breaths, say a long, loud 'oo' and keep it going. Wow! Did you know you could make such a great sound?

Don't stop there. Keep practising, using other long sounds: 'ah' and 'ee'. Try it every day, remembering to check your shoulders. They should stay low and relaxed: you really don't need to fill right to the top of the pyramid, unless you are singing opera. Feel your power and control grow every day.

Sound like you mean it
Now you know just how much voice you can produce, and how good it sounds and feels, it's time to think about how you can use it to give yourself more confidence.

Listen to some good speakers. There are plenty on the TV. Find someone who sounds really authoritative, like Jeremy Paxman, for example. Listen to the tune of his speech. By this, I mean the way his voice goes up and down. He often ends a sentence with a deeper sound, hitting a lower note. It makes him sound assured, definite, in control.

Female speakers often use a tone of voice that's far less definite. Many women raise their voice at the end of a sentence, as though they're asking a question. That makes them sound less impressive, and you can sometimes hear another speaker talking over them. It's as though they're asking to be interrupted.

Experiment in private with different ways to say a sentence. Say, 'I don't believe you,' as though you are a hot-shot interviewer and hear the authoritative drop in your voice at the very end of the phrase.

Try saying, 'Don't you believe me?' and hear the squeaky rise in your tone. It sounds pretty wet, doesn't it?

Use an authoritative intonation the next time you want to make a point and no one will think of interrupting you.