Making Good Speakers Great

Smart Practice

Are you wasting your practice time? Everyone knows practice is a critical component of skill-building and behavioral change. Author Malcom Gladwell has popularized the idea we need at least 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to achieve mastery in any area. But there’s a catch—it has to be smart practice. Skating around an ice rink for thousands of hours won’t make you a champion figure skater. It’s difficult to make time for practice, so how can you be sure you’re using that precious time most effectively?

Pay attention. Mindless repetition doesn’t deliver results. In his wonderful book, The Brain That Changes Itself, Dr. Norman Doidge says paying close attention is essential to long-term change. Learning with divided attention doesn’t lead to lasting change in your brain maps. It’s not just repetition that leads to improvement—your ability to notice what’s happening while you’re performing a task enables you to recognize obstacles and reinforce gains. Stop daydreaming, get focused, and notice what’s happening.

Be curious. Expecting immediate results puts you in the wrong frame of mind for effective practice. It’s tempting to treat an exercise like a vending machine: you do the exercise and you get a result. It’s common to hear someone say, “That exercise didn’t do much for me.” As if it’s the fault of the exercise. In reality, an exercise is more like an experiment—it’s a chance to observe and learn something, and there’s no way to predict what that might be. Get curious. Give yourself permission to explore. The discoveries you make will open doors for real change.

Be patient with yourself. Focusing on “doing it right” is a distraction and a recipe for frustration. When your attention shifts from “what am I observing?” to “am I doing it right?” you are no longer learning. Shunryu Suzuki wrote, “You become discouraged with your practice when your practice has been idealistic. Our practice cannot be perfect, but without being discouraged by this, we should continue it. This is the secret of practice.” Give yourself permission to fail, because failure reveals what you need to learn. It’s a guide, not proof that you can’t succeed.

Focus. Trying to practice everything will prevent you from perfecting anything. Bruce Lee said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 1,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 1,000 times.” Focus on one thing at a time. Don’t worry about the other mistakes that may be happening. Good practice requires that you allow one thing to fall apart while you focus on another. Trust the process. Know what specific skill you’re practicing. Give it your full attention. Spend time absorbing one thing, and it will most likely be waiting for you when you revisit it.

Top performance does not stem from innate talent or genetic advantages. It comes from diligent practice of clearly, carefully defined skills. Making your practice hours count requires focus, patience, curiosity, and attentiveness. The ability to practice effectively will impact every aspect of your life—personally and professionally. It will ultimately distinguish you from your peers and put you at the top of your game.

  • The second is breath. Breathing well relaxes the body at very deep levels, creates more space on the inside and keeps the channels very open. The quality of your in-breath will always set up the quality of your voice. If your in-breath is small and shallow, your voice will tend to be small and shallow. If your in-breath is full and deep, your voice will tend to be full and deep.

  • The third is space. Think of a bass drum. Its size and its large interior space tend to emphasize the lower frequencies of its sound. The same thing will happen with your voice if you enhance the feeling of open space inside your body.

Some people get lucky and seem to be born with voices that sound confident and authoritative. The rest of us have to develop it. You might not sound like Lauren Bacall or James Earl Jones, but the good news is that everyone, including you, has the potential for a voice that is warm, resonant and strong. With some training and practice, you can learn to relax, breathe, and be expansive, cultivating a genuine sense of depth in your voice that others will find appealing and attractive.


The Sound of Success
Enroll in this FREE video mini course and discover a powerfully attractive voice.

Your Confident Voice
This 145-minute mp3 download is a complete speaking voice course. The simple but amazingly effective program is on sale this month!

Overcoming Stage Fright and
Performance Anxiety

On this mp3 download, Jay Miller teams up with six-time award-winning hypnotist Dr. Mike Mandel to deliver the most comprehensive program available for reducing or eliminating stage fright.