How to prepare your voice for a speech: Step-by-step guide

You step on the stage and are about to start your speech. As soon as you utter the first word you are shocked by your voice, all squeaky and hoarse, and you wonder what went wrong.

Maybe the reason is you forgot to prepare your voice!

Now, you might ask what is voice preparation? How can you possibly make your voice ready?

But, believe me, all the successful public speakers, politicians, news anchors, even singers, and anchors never skip this step!

They ensure that they pamper and protect their voice until the last minute of beginning their performance!

So get ready to embark on a journey with our step-by-step guide to develop your voice effectively!

Here is our schedule for preparing your voice!

Before we proceed with the schedule, there might be some of you wondering: what is even the need to go through the steps? Just practice and perform it.

But here’s why you might be wrong.

Why is there a need to prepare your voice for a speech?

Even though you have a wonderful script, it does not mean that you will have a wonderful speech!

You need to take in all aspects of your performance, such as your vocals and your body language.

Just rehearsing your speech over and over will also not do.

This will do more bad than good. I’ll tell you why:

When I was a freshman at college, my friend and I decided to participate in the annual talent hunt competition.

We had a few rehearsals together, and we were good to go for our performance, which was on the next day.

But, my friend got nervous and she practiced way too many times, and she wasn’t even able to speak!

Our whole practice was fruitless, and eventually, she decided to withdraw her name from the competition.

Apart from this reason of worsening your voice, there a lot more reasons all mentioned in this article, so read till the end!

Now, let’s get started!

1. Record Your Voice

It is okay if you do not have a professional recorder! Your phone is enough!

Your first step in developing your voice for your upcoming speech, presentation, or performance is to record your voice.

You can record it on your phone through a voice recorder or any other app.

At this point, just read out your speech or draft and record it.

Half of step one is completed!

Next, record an impromptu speech of 1-2 minutes. It doesn’t have to be related to your speech. Just talk about anything you feel like.

With this done, store both these set of recordings for our next step.

2. Analyze your recordings

Analyze by making notes!

The second step is to analyze your previous recordings.

For this step you would require a paper and a pen, along with your recording.

As you hear your first recording, take down points on how you speak when you read a script. For example, what are the characteristics or qualities of your voice?

Is your voice deep or high pitched? Is it clear or has an airy or breathy quality? Is it soft or loud?

Make points for the tone of your voice as well.

Do you speak in a monotonous manner or with vocal variations? Do you speak too fast or too slow?

For your next recording, you simply observe how you speak.

So, in this case, make note of what kind of fillers words you use in between, such as “uh…” or “um…” or do you happen to use repetitive words or phrases.

When you analyze all of these, you will have the qualities, characteristics, vocal patterns, and the strengths and weaknesses of your voice.

This step will make you understand your voice better, so that you can work on them constructively.

3. Ask for feedback

Record, analyze, evaluate, and improve results!

The third step is to ask for a feedback about your voice from others.

They can be your colleagues, friends or family members.

Ask them what quality or characteristic they like and dislike about your voice.

Note down all the points given by people.

This will help you comprehend and paint a real picture of your voice, so you can practice and improve them effectively.

4. Experiment with your vocal style

Experiment to improve and find your voice!

This step will give you the exposure and freedom to experiment with various styles of speaking and come up with one you are most comfortable and confident in.

You will need the help of your notes for this step.

Now, the key is to try out different styles. This means you would speak in a way completely opposite to what is the notes.

So if you have written that your voice is high pitched, then try out reading in a lower pitch than usual or if you use too many filler words, use as less as possible.

This step will help you find your natural voice and you will understand what difference does a mere change in the quality of voice does to your speech.

Once you find your comfortable voice pattern and type, the next step is to train them.

5. Train your voice

Train your voice daily and see the development!

For this step, first you need to do a warm up.

Warming up your vocal cords

Just like how you do a quick warm-up before exercising or practicing your dance routine, you have to warm up your vocal cords too to avoid straining them and becoming hoarse.

Vocal warm up usually begin with relaxing your body first.

So, do some basic body stretches, such as slow head rolls, followed by arm rotations clockwise then anti-clockwise, and so on.

If you want to pace up a bit, do spot jogging or march for a minute, followed by knee lifts.

For a better understanding, follow this clip:

Did you feel a rush of blood and energy after doing this warm-up? I certainly did!

Vocal warm-up

So, let’s get to the vocal warm-up.

A vocal warm up can be anywhere around 5-10 minutes long and is the most fun part of all the steps!

You can begin by making a sound while rolling your tongue, known as tongue trill, or hum in ascending or descending pitch.

You can also chant a word and sustain that note for as long as you can.

Vocal exercises

Now that your body and vocal cords are all warmed up, let’s begin with our vocal exercises.

Doing these will make your vocal cords stronger and resist losing voice, which would be a nightmare!

Hence, don’t skip this step.

Some of the important exercises you can do include sustaining notes, trying to sustain a word or sound for as long as you can.

The other involves breathing exercises such as breath holds and deep breathing, to strengthen your lungs for better air flow during speaking, giving your voice a pleasant tone.

Let’s look and follow the demonstration below for a better understanding:

That was an intense vocal workout!

Now, let’s explore some tongue exercises.

Tongue exercises

These will help in speech articulation, make your voice clearer sounding, and make your pronunciations clearer!

You can start with stretching your tongue as far out as you can and notch up with a note!

The key is to make your tongue stronger, hence try to hold it in the same position!

You can do tongue holds, such as sticking your tongue to the roof of your mouth or pointing it outwards, keeping your tongue as straight as possible, for 10-15 seconds each.

Now you may begin with practicing your speech without straining your voice whatsoever!

6. Practice

Practice may not make perfect but can definitely improve your vocal skills!

This step is the most important step of the whole routine, so make sure to take out ample time to practice your speech.

Maintain a video or an audio journal, where you can go back and introspect the strong and weak elements of your voice.

Remember that your vocal cords are made of muscles, which means you can develop them if you regularly exercise them correctly.

Hence, take out at least an hour to practice and rehearse how you are going to use this powerful tool.

However, do not overdo your practice!

This can have disastrous consequences! Instead of developing your cords, you might strain and damage them!

How to talk without losing your voice?

There can be situations where you may lose your voice or experience a bad throat.

What to do in such situations? Don’t panic! Stress will make the vocal cords more tensed than before, increasing the issue!

If you have some time, say 2-3 days, rest your voice and don’t use them at all or to the lowest extent possible.

You probably overworked your voice or practiced the wrong way.

What you can do is engage in relaxing exercises such as body stretches, which will relax your mind and body for a speedy recovery.

You can also drink some homemade herbal tea or warm water to fasten the recovery process.

How to stop straining your voice while giving speech?

If your voice is still not healed, practice a bit on the day before your speech, and take the help of a microphone, so that even if you speak softly, your voice will be heard by others.

If your voice is back to normal, practice for about an hour, and just perform similarly on stage. Don’t talk too loudly as it will strain your voice.

Things to do to improve your voice before giving a speech

1. Warm-up

Warm-up your body, voice and mind!

It is essential to warm up before your speech as you did before in your practice sessions.

Loosen up your body and take deep breaths to keep your mind and body calm and relaxed.

You can follow along any vocal warm-ups of your choice. Here are some recommendations:

2. Be hydrated

Stay hydrated to give your best!

It is essential that you drink sufficient water, not just to ace your performance but to stay healthy as well.

Drinking water an hour before your performance and a few sips during your speech would keep your vocal cords hydrated and you will avoid cracking your voice.

But how much water is the right amount for your body?

Look at the chart below:

Are You Drinking Enough Water? Know How Much Water To Drink In A Day!

You can easily understand how much water is sufficient by locating your weight and the number of glasses.

So, if your weight is 54, 6 glasses of water are the minimum amount you should consume daily.

What other fluids to consume before speech?

Although water would be more than sufficient to hydrate your throat and vocal chords, you can keep other options as well.

Drinking warm herbal tea or infused water may help in getting that soothing and clear voice.

However, avoid beverages such as coffee, cold drinks or alcohol as they stick to your throat longer, affecting your vocal quality.

3. Eat healthy

Healthy eating and moderate consumption is the key to a healthy voice!

Eating healthy food is a major contributor to maintain a healthy voice and body.

A balanced diet and having foods such as garlic, ginger, citrus fruits, green veggies, etc., lower the rate of mucus formation in your throat.

Hence, consuming these foods would keep your throat and voice clear and healthy.

However, avoid consuming oily or sweet food, dairy products, cold food such as ice-cream or cola, etc., since these foods increase the production of mucus, making you more vulnerable to throat infections and cold.

Eating at least 2-3 hours before your performance will give you the required energy and also keep you away from burping on stage!

4. Sleep well

Sleep well to do well!

Sleeping is the most crucial thing to do if you want to give your best on stage.

However, most of us are either too excited or too nervous the night before our performance, and we end up sleeping for only 3-4 hours.

This causes us to feel tired and binge-eat fast food snacks to gain energy, but end up feeling even more tired.

It can also cause forgetting important details and most importantly, your speech!

To avoid having this nightmare, it is better to have a sleep schedule a week before your speech and follow it religiously.

Avoid exposure to any kind of light including your phone at least an hour before your bedtime.

You can do relaxing activities like body stretches or some meditation to have a better quality of sleep.

FAQ’s on preparing voice

This section will expose you to different situations which require a slightly different approach when it comes to preparing your voice.

We curated some of these here as follows:

How to clear your throat before a speech and have a clear voice?

Although we all have unique voices, some voices sound more clearer than husky or baritone ones.

We can’t change our voice types, but we can certainly learn and adapt to sound more clearer.

Here are some tips to have a clear voice:

  • Avoid straining your voice, such as over practicing, or speaking too loudly to maintain a healthy and clear voice.
  • Have a proper schedule for drinking water and avoid carbonated drinks.
  • Engage in a vocal warmup just before the speech to clear up your voice.
  • Ensure that you let your voice rest, to avoid inflammation.
  • Eat a balanced and healthy diet, avoiding too oily or spicy food.
  • Drink herbal tea or warm drinks to clear up your voice.

To clear your throat right before you go on stage for your speech, a few of the exercise mentioned here will help you keep your throat clear. For example, before going for your speech, purse your lips, don’t smile and hum a note to yourself for a few seconds. It will help relax your vocal chords.

Also, simply keeping yourself hydrated (preferably with warm water will do just fine in keeping your throat clear.

How to prepare your voice for a presentation?

This is the most commonly asked question, and is indeed a very important one as it concerns the work environment.

Your voice quality and delivery can determine whether you would get selected for your dream job or promotion, as well as progressing your organization through business pitches.

Your focus should be on making your voice clear and loud for showing that you have the confidence and capability of fulfilling your job requirements.

Hence, practice more on the diction and pronunciations, and make sure to have a slightly polite tone in your voice.

How to prepare your voice for a public speaking event?

You might be asked to give a lecture as a guest in colleges or organizations, or are going to host a show.

For such situations, your voice has to be expressive and not neutral and monotonous, especially for giving lectures.

If you want to explain a concept well, have some variations in your vocal tone and pitch to have an expressive voice.

Practice speaking clearly and slowly when giving a lecture.

As for hosting an event, avoid any rudeness in speech or manner, and try to have a polite tone all through the event.

You should also try to make your voice seem energetic, and have a good vocal warmup before the event.

How to prepare your voice for an audition?

For all the budding artists over there, I have been in your place!

From my experience, practice till you make it, be it for a voice-over artist, vocalist, actor, etc.

However, do not overdo it!

You will lose your voice or not be able to perform your level best as a result!

Also, while practicing don’t just try to emulate the artist, add your own flavor to increase your chances of getting selected!

Examples of speeches with good vocal tonality

The keys to a great conversation: Celeste Headlee

This small but effective speech by Celeste Headlee is a good example of vocal tonality.

She uses clear speech and the words pronunciations are not muffled, but clean and clear.

The tone also raises at appropriate places and gives a conversational feel to her speech.

The next outbreak? We’re not ready: Bill Gates

Now, some of you might have come across this video during the lockdown of how Bill Gates actually predicted the pandemic!

This speech might have awed you and wanted to hear more at the end of the speech, but the secret is his voice!

He is well-known for his speeches and all have a common trait: his narrative tone.

He uses his voice effectively to present his ideas in the form of a story, which mesmerizes many, including me!

 Let the paint dry: Daniel J. Watts

This is one of the most unique type of speech that I’ve ever come across.

While watching his speech, you might get a bit confused of what the speech is about.

But later when you join the dots, the picture will be clearer.

The technique of bringing a prop, along with body language is incredibly used in his presentation.

Most importantly, the voice makes a difference. He uses a lot of pauses without making it seem awkward, and his storytelling complements the speech a great deal.

Conclusion

So, these were the steps that I personally found helpful and would recommend to anyone who is about to give a speech, presentation, or any performance!

Just be sure to keep the things to do before giving your speech in mind before going on stage.

Hope you gained some knowledge through this article!

Check out our related articles:

How to Present without Sounding like a Robot?

What To Do Right After A Speech: A Step-By-Step Guide

6 Ways You Can Evaluate Your Own Presentation

Hrideep Barot is the founder and chief writer at Frantically Speaking, a portal to help people learn everything about public speaking. The purpose of franticallyspeaking.com is to showcase the lessons that he has learned (and still learning) from his numerous stage experiences and mentors over all these years.