How To Make a Good Speech Great? Sing It!


Singing is magical. I love to sing. As it turns out, singing does some pretty amazing, powerful things. We feel happier when we sing. If we're depressed, we feel happier after singing. Singing a song to a person with dementia can conjure memories believed to have been lost... the list goes on and on for all of the magical things that singing can do for us.

When I work with a person who stutters, we sing the words; a person does not stutter when they sing. Somebody who has had nodules or other medical vocal issues? You guessed it, we re-train them to sing their words. Easy vocal onset, connected sounds over a well-supported breath. Magic. An accent? You guessed it. We'll connect the words the way we do when we sing, so that the final sounds are not changed or deleted. So simple. So effective.

When a person is stuck in a certain way of speaking, sounding or using their voice, I may ask them to sing or imitate a singer. After some potential reluctance, and with light-hearted encouragement, they do it. Eureka! We've tapped into a different way of connecting to their voice and themselves. Further exploration continues and fun and enlightenment ensue.

A LOT of people I coach are working on improving the presentation skills. So, without further ado... 

Want to make a good speech great? 

Sing it! 

Now hear me out--I'm not saying you should serenade your department with the results of the last quarter's earnings. But--singing your speech can actually be an excellent strategy for improving all aspects of your vocal delivery.

Here's why. When you sing, you are connecting your words on a continuous stream of air. This provides better breath support, and will in turn cause your voice to become more resonant; your sound will travel more easily to all parts of the room. Try speaking: ABCDEFG. Now sing it. Now speak/sing it.... Did you notice a less staccato quality and a smoother, richer sound? It will also produce a more polished, confident sound; one that is connected to your breath. In addition, you prolonged certain vowels (notes), giving your voice more time to raise and lower in pitch, making it sound more dynamic, interesting, and connected to your ideas.

Now, let's get back to breath. If your voice isn't loud enough or powerful enough, you don't want to push the sounds out harder from your throat, that might just make you sound shrill or like you're yelling; you want to use the diaphragmatic breathing you're more naturally likely to use when you're singing (and if you don't know how to breathe from your diaphragm, spend some time and attention on this!). Better breath support, more power and control, and, less tension and restriction at the throat will allow the sound to flow forward easily, creating a richer, more appealing sound quality. If you establish correct breathing patterns in your practice sessions, you lay the foundations for proper sound production and are better able to "click in" to the way it operated and felt during your practice "singing" sessions.

If you are like most people, nerves become a big problem when you get up to speak to a group. Diaphragmatic breathing slows your body down with its gentle, regular pattern. It is on the exhalation that our bodies naturally relax. When you learn to speak using proper breathing (most people never do), you are naturally calming yourself as you speak!  Focusing on your breathing is a well-known and effective technique for pulling you back to the present and grounding you in your body when you've been caught up in racing, worried thoughts. You can think and find your words more easily when you are relaxed and present. Your body doesn't lie--your brain believes what it tells it. 

When you sing your speech, your phrasing will become more interesting, too. We think in phrases, and we process language that way too. We pause to allow word groups to sink in by meaning. Your skillfully phrased delivery should be as impactful as a singer's. Every word has a note that's connected on a melody line, evoking an emotion and an idea. Sing your phrases and become the Frank Sinatra of the boardroom!

Finally, when you sing, you are using both sides of your brain. You are actually gaining a new perspective on your material because (simplified description) you're using both the creative, imaginative side (right) and the orderly, logical side (left). When you practice by singing a few phrases of your talk, and then go back and speak them, you tap into the power of your whole brain. You'll be expressing yourself in a way that feels whole--you might even surprise yourself. Your delivery feels and sounds fresh, and people can't help but listen.