The Basics For Expert Speaking: Projection and Articulation

In any speaking event, understanding the basics behind what makes for strong speaking skills is essential. Writing a speech, researching a topic, and memorizing the words for delivery can only carry a speaker so far in a round. Even with great interpretation skills, if a speaker does not know how to speak then their talents will remain hidden. For a speaker to fully use their abilities they need to know a few techniques to encourage the development of their voice.

Know the Piece

Nothing can ever sound wonderful if the piece is not fully memorized and interpreted. Complete understanding is vital to encourage confidence and to reduce slip-ups. When a performer knows and has internalized their piece they are more likely to feel the words they speak; they can perform more “in the moment” as opposed to striving to recall what is the next paragraph. If a speaker can achieve this confidence then their delivery will be done with certainty and authority--two qualities that produce a convincing and enthralling sounding speech. Further, when a speech is fully memorized it reduces the number of unnecessary stumbles and minor hesitations due to forgetting the words. These mistakes, regardless of how miniscule, reduce confidence levels and cut into any eloquence the speaker was producing in their delivery.

Warm the Vocal Cords and Face

Everybody’s voice sounds unused and cracks at 7 A.M. on a Saturday. Even after a day at school, a person’s voice might still sound as if it had not been used for hours. Thus, prior to any performance it is an excellent idea to do some vocal exercises to stretch and warm-up one’s vocal cords. The vocal cords are like any muscle and deserve attention prior to prolonged usage. Try doing some tongue twisters or excerpts from the piece; a section that usually causes vocal stumbling. Do lines that require work to hit consonants and to fully form the vowels. Fully produce every sound, regardless of how silly one might look. Actually, that silly face is required for the next warm-up: the face. Note that to richly manufacture every sound the face contorts itself into extreme facials? Obviously a person cannot do that in a round, but with practice the voice can replicate those sounds without the ridiculous expressions. Also, take this further and a performer can get their face muscles prepared to do facials and vocalize. Stretch the face completely wide and open, pretending that everything is being pushed backwards. Then, scrunch everything together as if the face is converging onto the nose. Repeat. By doing this the face is fully ready to perform whatever piece and sound good while doing so.

Articulation

After warming up, and having concentrated on diction in warm-ups, this must carry over into the performance. Every single person in the audience needs to understand every syllable being uttered. Poor diction can push an audience into not caring or paying attention. Maintaining audience attention can be challenging enough without offering a reason. While speaking, pay attention at all times to the sounds being produced. Be certain to hit all sounds--especially softer letters like “p.” Some tricks to ensuring excellent pronunciation include controlling pace, The Pencil Trick, and distance training. First, one common mistake to speaking is not remembering to slow down. People tend to speak faster while performing. Speaking faster can alienate an audience, well, swiftly. They must process the dialogue as it is being spoken, and they might not have ever heard this piece prior to this round so are unfamiliar. Slowing down not only gives time to process, but speaking slower also helps to prevent getting tongue-tied. Second, The Pencil Trick is a simple practice tool. Merely take a pencil, or like object, and bit down on it as a dog carrying a stick. Then, attempt to deliver dialogue with the pencil being held. This obtrusive object will force the speaker to articulate with precision to be able to even speak the words. When the pencil is removed diction will be second nature. Finally, test enunciation abilities by attempting to perform to someone from a great distance. This test is most beneficial as it will enable speakers to see exactly how slow and with what articulation they need to speak to be understood. Toss in The Pencil Trick and mastery of clear diction will be achieved.

Projection

A Declamation is pointless if it is never heard. And there is no excuse for not being heard by an audience--even loud, white noise should not be a deterrent for good projection. To obtain projection skills the only real way to practice is to use the distance training as mentioned in the above paragraph, and focus on whether or not the listener can hear the speech. A technique to help with projection is to envision the words reaching a spot in the distance; a person, a brick in the wall, a poster…anything as a visual receptacle for sound. This tends to help a person with projection. Also, remember to be mindful of speech loudness throughout the entire speech. Sometimes speakers forget to remember about loudness and they get quiet gradually throughout the speech. Maintain a continuous volume. In addition, the key to good projection is breath support. Breathing with the lungs provides a limited air supply. Thus, breath with the diaphragm. (The diaphragm is a muscle that can be felt by placing a hand on the stomach and breathing deeply. As the diaphragm fills, the stomach will expand and shoulders should remain level for a full breath. Using the diaphragm will result in more breath to not only fill the room but speak longer and without strain.) Finally, be aware that there is a difference between projection and yelling. Never should the voice sound stressed like it is yelling. Projection, when done correctly, will merely be louder speech.

Through both articulation and projection any speaker can instantly improve their performance. In fact, even the best speakers can become horrid if their audience cannot hear and understand their speech. These two tools are the basic cornerstone to a fantastic Declamation, and they are also two of the easiest to master.