The Art of Public Speaking HTML version
Oh, there is something in that voice that reaches The innermost recesses of my spirit!
The dramatic critic of The London Times once declared that acting is nine-tenths voice work. Leaving the
message aside, the same may justly be said of public speaking. A rich, correctly-used voice is the greatest
physical factor of persuasiveness and power, often over-topping the effects of reason.
But a good voice, well handled, is not only an effective possession for the professional speaker, it is a mark of
personal culture as well, and even a distinct commercial asset. Gladstone, himself the possessor of a deep,
musical voice, has said: "Ninety men in every hundred in the crowded professions will probably never rise
above mediocrity because the training of the voice is entirely neglected and considered of no importance."
These are words worth pondering.
There are three fundamental requisites for a good voice:
Signor Bonci of the Metropolitan Opera Company says that the secret of good voice is relaxation; and this is
true, for relaxation is the basis of ease. The air waves that produce voice result in a different kind of tone
when striking against relaxed muscles than when striking constricted muscles. Try this for yourself. Contract
the muscles of your face and throat as you do in hate, and flame out "I hate you!" Now relax as you do when
thinking gentle, tender thoughts, and say, "I love you." How different the voice sounds.
In practising voice exercises, and in speaking, never force your tones. Ease must be your watchword. The
voice is a delicate instrument, and you must not handle it with hammer and tongs. Don't make your voice
go--let it go. Don't work. Let the yoke of speech be easy and its burden light.
Your throat should be free from strain during speech, therefore it is necessary to avoid muscular contraction.
The throat must act as a sort of chimney or funnel for the voice, hence any unnatural constriction will not only
harm its tones but injure its health.
Nervousness and mental strain are common sources of mouth and throat constriction, so make the battle for
poise and self-confidence for which we pleaded in the opening chapter.
But how can I relax? you ask. By simply willing to relax. Hold your arm out straight from your shoulder.
Now--withdraw all power and let it fall. Practise relaxation of the muscles of the throat by letting your neck
and head fall forward. Roll the upper part of your body around, with the waist line acting as a pivot. Let your
head fall and roll around as you shift the torso to different positions. Do not force your head around--simply
relax your neck and let gravity pull it around as your body moves.
Again, let your head fall forward on your breast; raise your head, letting your jaw hang. Relax until your jaw
feels heavy, as though it were a weight hung to your face. Remember, you must relax the jaw to obtain
command of it. It must be free and flexible for the moulding of tone, and to let the tone pass out unobstructed.
The lips also must be made flexible, to aid in the moulding of clear and beautiful tones. For flexibility of lips
repeat the syllables, mo--me. In saying mo, bring the lips up to resemble the shape of the letter O. In repeating
me draw them back as you do in a grin. Repeat this exercise rapidly, giving the lips as much exercise as