Article Category: Delivery Techniques

Speak Up!
A Guide to Voice Projection

I was listening to a young speaker conducting a microphone check for a presentation before a large meeting.

People at the back of the room kept saying, “Project!” and “Louder, please.” We were already having trouble hearing the speaker, even before the room was full of people, but their approach wasn’t working.

Frankly, I wasn’t surprised. Just telling someone to yell doesn’t solve the problem of projection. Similarly, just speaking louder doesn’t create a powerful voice.

Vocal Delivery Article Series

The Three Key Components of a Powerful Sound

The key components of a powerful sound are:

  1. personality,
  2. passion, and
  3. strong vocal physique.

The first two components are achieved by being yourself and by being clear about your intention. The third, through awareness and practice.

1. Personality

Personality is “you” and the unique gifts you share with your audience. Personality is the unique imprint your thought leaves on your voice, making it distinguishable from other voices and revealing things about your particular experiences and perspective. You cannot escape the revelatory nature of your voice. The essence of who you are is in your voice for all to hear.

If you want to be heard, it’s vital that you celebrate your authentic self. In a New York Times interview Ursula Burns, the impressive new head of Xerox Corporation, wisely remarked,  “I can’t try to say it in somebody else’s voice. I have to say it in my voice.”

2. Passion

Passion is the power of intention aligned with content and personality. We have already covered personality, so what about intention and content?

Content is simply what you have to say. It’s your message, your words, your ideas manifested in spoken form. Intention, on the other hand, is what you have in mind to do or bring about. It is why you are speaking in the first place, why you are standing in front of an audience, what you hope to accomplish. When intention, content and personality align, we have passion. And when there is passion, powerful things happen.

When a speaker is passionate, they seem authentic and genuine. For that reason, actors are trained to pour intent in their lines and speak with passion. We are so tuned in to this aspect of voices that babies as young as six months old can discern intention in voices. I have written about this subject in my blog.

If your intention is unclear, if it conflicts with your message or even with the reason people think you are there, your vocal power will diminish and you’ll lose your audience.

3. Strong Vocal Physique

Speaking louder doesn’t create a powerful voice.

Strong vocal physique is the ability to produce a vibrantly resonant sound and to have a good command of breathing technique.

Because sound travels on air, resonance and air are intimately connected in the voice. In an earlier Six Minutes article, I focus on good breathing technique for speaking. This is important because air itself makes the voice work. As you exhale, air moves from your lungs through your trachea (or windpipe). It then passes between your vocal folds (also called arytenoids and vocal cords) and brings those muscles together. As they vibrate, sound happens. You use your throat, tongue, lips, and jaw to shape the sound into words.

Now, if someone tells you to speak up, there is a good chance you will use more air as you increase your volume. That’s an improvement. But speaking more loudly may just come across as yelling — and you also risk straining your voice. It is more correct to suggest that you stand up straight, take a big breath, and use more air to carry the sound as you speak up, but that is a very long set of instructions for even the best of sound men! Better that you know what “project” means so you do it right.

Developing Resonance through Awareness and Practice

Resonance is the reverberation or repetition of sound in the environment in which it was created. When someone speaks, resonance is created in the body as well as in the surrounding area. The resonance in the body can be felt by the speaker. The two extremes of resonance are “head voice,” which is where high sounds resonate, and “chest voice,” which is where low sounds resonate.

However, most sounds the human voice makes can also resonate in the mask, or the front of the face. A voice with plenty of mask resonance is strong, and clear, no matter how loud or soft. A voice with good mask resonance is pleasant to listen to and flexible, allowing for rich vocal variety.

Mask resonance is a combination of nasal and mouth resonance. The sound you are looking for will produce a pronounced vibration in the front of your face.


Try it now. Say “Mmmmm.” See if you can feel the buzzy sensation in the front of your face. (I’ve had a lot of fun doing this on radio interviews.) That’s mask resonance. Another way to produce it is to simply say “Mmm-hmm,” like an enthusiastic “yes.” Now say, “Mmm-hmm one. Mmm-hmm two. Mmm-hmm three.” Can you feel that sensation carry over into the words “one,” “two,” and “three?”

Daily Practice…

Use mask resonance at the beginning of a sentence and try to keep that sensation in the words that follow. For example, say “Mmmmmm. It’s great to see you.”

Did you feel the resonance in the mask as you spoke “It’s great to see you,” or did it fade away?

Try it again. This does require some practice. Spend 20 minutes a day working with this, and add it to your awareness as you practice your presentations.

Don’t be afraid of nasal resonance, but know that you need a good combination of mouth and nose, which is why the focus is in the front of the face, not just the nose. If a voice sounds too nasal, it is as bad as one that has no mask resonance. Eventually, you will learn to use mask resonance all the time. As a bonus, according to Swedish researchers, mask resonance is also good for your health.

Vocal Delivery Article Series

Being Heard

The next time someone tells you to “project” or to “speak up,” remember that projecting your voice is much more than just making it louder.

  1. You project your voice by allowing it to shine with your personality, and having confidence that you have something unique to say.
  2. You project your voice with passion for your message by setting a clear intention.
  3. And you project your voice by developing a resonant sound that is supported with your whole body through air and energy.

When you do these three things, you will be heard.

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Comments icon19 Comments

  1. Great article Kate, and blows a hole right through the over-simplistic training approaches that are often used on “presentation skills courses” and the like. If it was as easy as “speaking up”, no-one would have an issue with it for long!

    Great stuff, thanks.


  2. Kate:

    Great points in this article.

    Shouting doesn’t get it, does it?

    Your verbiage about Passion hits the Bull’s Eye of getting an audience to connect and receive your message.

    Great Post – Thanks!

  3. Shanz says:

    Loved every bit of the article. I had bad vocal projection years ago and improved by following Rogers , recently my voice has been affected by speaking slowly as my work requires to affecting my vocal cords. Your exercise will be beneficial to me. Thanks once again Kate!

  4. Interesting article Kate.
    From a practical side of doing a sound check, its often a case that the speaker does not have the microphone close enough to their mouth. You often see people drop a hand-held microphone down while they are speaking or do not have a lecturn-attached microphone adjusted to their height.

    While you are working on your above three tips, make sure you have the microphone closer to your mouth but avoid blowing / breathing directly into it while speaking.

    Warwick John Fahy
    Author, The One Minute Presenter

  5. alex zeta says:

    I totally agree with this. Good voice projection is vital in delivering a good speech. Aside from this you also have to be prepared. Confidence springs from preparation.

  6. Al Thornton says:

    One of the ways that I learned vocal projection was by dictating my speeches. You can use any dictation software and if your accuracy rate is low then you know that you are mumbling.
    It was a roundabout way to improving my projection.

  7. kellyhadous says:

    Hi Kate, Your article resonated with me. When I coach my clients about projecting their voices, I also refer to very similar analogies and techniques.
    Thank you! Kelly

  8. Dineen says:

    I’m part of a ministry and frequently speak but struggle to project my voice. This is the first time I’ve read something so simple that actually helps! I could totally feel the difference when I did the exercise and spoke from the mask. Wow! Thank you!

  9. Cat says:

    One of the reasons I really don’t like to go to a lot of plays anymore, is that the actors raise their voices so loud in some scenes that it’s just obnoxious and a burden to the ears. Why the need to yell lines so loudly, even in intense scenes, where everyone can more than hear you? Just saw “Amadeus” in Asheville and the actors yelled so loud in certain scenes that my nervous system was affected.

  10. Terance Schmidt says:

    I’m a singer, sound engineers love me because I’ve got so much power they don’t have to turn me up, which means they don’t have to fight feedback.

    My favorite technique for loosening my body in order to create body resonance is yoga’s “warrior pose”. Done right, it stretches the psoas muscles, the stomach, and the throat.

    1. Dorein says:

      Can you please send me videos with respect to this pose or type of yoga that makes voice powerful?

  11. As a public speaking trainer, I like this list of suggestions Kate.
    With regard to communicating passion – it can be useful to actually visualise speaking from the heart. Similarly we can increase our power if we imagine speaking from the gut. If anyone is interested in more detail on this I wrote a blog piece about this here:

  12. Ruth Croft says:

    Hi, I’m a speaking coach in NZ. I really enjoyed reading this. It put what I teach in lovely simple terms.
    I’ve just started my website and learning about ‘blogging’ Great site.

  13. Darrell G Jarman says:

    Best suggestions I have ever had for the mumbling I have been accused of all my life. Thanks

  14. Dorein says:

    WOW, this is so amazing. I could feel every bit of the sensation. I am a very passionate actor by passion but engineer and science student all my life by compulsion. ( A lousy one) But Finally I decided to audition for USC next year in Feb for the MFA ACTING, and I did theater, in India very briefly and couple short films. So I do have an audience experience. But singing, rapping and acting is all about the voice. And as I prepare to do THE JOKER( HEATH STRICTLY) AND CAPT JACK SPARROW( MR.DEPP RESPECTEDLY) Voice is all I care about, as the reverberations and resonance, come only through, the crisp, rich deep voice. I hope I nail it and get selected. This will be a dream come true for me, if I do. I somehow, happened to suck at everything else, But this is different. This I am PASSIONATE ABOUT! AND I EMPHASIZE ON PASSION, I AM SO HAPPY YOU DID TOO. THAT IS THE ROOT OF ANYTHING EXCELLENT IN THIS UNIVERSE. So Voice is something that I needed to train, Thanks so much, Do help me with more tips, to make my VOICE SOUND POWERFUL, RICH, CLEAR AND CRISP!

    Much Love,

    Hope I win.

  15. Rosy says:

    Voice hoarse for more 10 weeks 1st time this year
    Im teaching gr 3 now
    Gr 6 in last 6 minths was difficult for me
    Thanks so much for this valuable info for me
    Today I spime in stacf meeting and was so embarrassed when my voice failed me
    Thanks a million times
    Thank you very much
    Cape Town

  16. Erick Kruger says:


  17. K Rajasekharan says:

    Great article with a lot many practical ideas derived from sound theoretical knowledge which one can use for making his/her voice, speech or presentation attractive.

  18. avra says:

    I just hugged you many times, Kate. Thank You!

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