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Learn to Loosen up

Facially tense people have more monotonous voices, because they are not using their jaws and not changing their tone enough. An effective voice is relaxed and flexible; the variety so important to a lively speech will only result if you have loosened up your voice ahead of time and speak with an open throat and a loose, active lower jaw. With an open throat, sounds are no longer tight and squeezed.

To open your throat, relax the whole area around it. Rotate your head slowly to one side for a count of eight, and repeat for the other side. Think of clothes dangling on a line—limp and at ease. Then indulge in a nice big yawn. Right before you finish the yawn, lazily recite the vowels "A, E, I, O, U." All your throat exercises should be put together with very open sounds and done very lazily, effortlessly, and slowly.

Now work on getting an active jaw. Americans are known to have tight jaws, which makes for poor diction. Most American men, in fact, have "cultural lockjaw"; they speak like Clint Eastwood, who keeps his mouth almost closed when he speaks. Women tend to have more interesting and varied voices because they are more facially animated. You have to open up your jaw on certain vowel sounds and diphthongs (vowel sounds that come together, like now). Say cow, with your hand on your jaw, and notice the jaw movement.

Practice: Try "How now, brown cow." Make these sounds slowly and easily. Use a mirror to make sure you are really shaping the sounds. The tight jaw style of Gary Cooper and Clint Eastwood may be great for movies, but it's not good for public speakers.


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