Ten years ago, I posted a video on how to prevent trailing off, allowing the last word of the phrase to become indistinct or even inaudible. It’s quite common in everyday speech and most people don’t even realize they’re doing it. The link to that video is in the description.
Today I’m focusing on a related, but more specific issue, and that’s the tendency for your voice to croak or get scratchy on that last word. “One, two, three. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. January, February, March.” Can you hear that raspy quality at the end? It’s caused by a lack of breath flow, so your vocal folds don’t engage fully. You’re making a noise but it’s not an actual tone.
Now, you might be asking, “Who cares? If so many people are doing it, and no one notices, why worry about it.” It matters because it can prevent your listeners from understanding what you’ve said, but it also affects the way your listeners feel, even it they’re not conscious of the cause.
When you’re not fully engaged to the last syllable of the last word, your listeners start to feel that you’re not fully committed to what you’re saying. They get the sense that you’re not confident, or that you’re bored, that you’re holding something back or that you don’t wish to engage with them. That’s obviously not helping you make an impact.
Communication is all about making a connection, and that requires you to make yourself available to your listeners. They have to have someone to connect to, so you have to get engaged and put yourself out there. That engagement happens at many levels, physical, mental and emotional, but that physical vocal engagement is the most tangible and easy to cultivate.
First you have to learn how to feel your whole voice fully engaged. I think lip flutters are a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with your whole voice, because they require you to really use your breath in the production of sound. [lip flutter] You can’t do that with a scratchy voice. The link to the lip flutter exercise is in the description.
So do that all the time, getting dressed in the morning, making your breakfast or tidying up around the house. [lip flutter] Notice how strong, smooth and vibrant is the tone of your voice. Get used to that feeling. That’s your whole voice, fully engaged, without unconscious reservation.
Once you know the feeling of your whole voice, you can take that to words, [lip flutter-away], [lip flutter-hello], making sure you’re using the same voice all the way through. Once that’s easy, you can move to phrases, [lip flutter-hi, how are you], [lip flutter-I’m fine thank you], making sure the last word is just as vibrant as the first word.
When you’re comfortable with phrases, you can try reading sentences. If you notice the last word getting scratchy, practice that word by itself. Then add the two words in front of it. Then try the whole sentence again. I’ll demonstrate. “Practice the word by itself… self… itself… self… itself… by itself… the word by itself… Practice the word by itself.”
At first it might seem like too much, and you may have to exaggerate for a while to get used to feeling your whole voice fully engaged to the very end. That’s fine. That’s what practice is for. You give yourself permission to exaggerate in private until you can execute the skill in public without making it so obvious.
I’d say perhaps seventy-five percent of my students are croaking on the last word to some extent. If you can develop the skill of engaging your whole voice all the way through the last word, you will stand out from your peers as someone who projects strength, confidence and credibility whenever you speak. Uh-uh! Did you catch that? I did it on purpose. “Whenever you speak.”
Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you in the next video—tsk—video.
Ending with a Croak
When you end your phrases with a raspy, scratchy sound, your listeners start to feel that you’re not fully committed to what you’re saying. They get the sense that you’re not confident, or that you’re bored, that you’re holding something back or that you don’t wish to engage with them. Here’s how to cultivate a strong, smooth tone that projects strength, confidence and credibility.