A viewer named Klara requested a video on how to deal with a shaking voice in public speaking. It’s an excellent question. I should have thought of that topic myself, so thanks, Klara!
Here’s what typically happens. You’re giving a speech or presentation and that naturally makes you a little nervous. But then you notice your voice is quivering as you’re speaking. It’s embarrassing and makes you feel exposed.
Your first response is to try to control your voice. When that fails you might speed up and start talking faster so no one will notice your voice is trembling. Then you start stumbling over words, making mistakes, and you find yourself in a downward spiral.
A shaky voice is caused by many different factors, physical, mental and emotional, but I’m going to focus on what I know best, the technical issues, since they’re very tangible and concrete.
At a physical level, a trembling voice is the product of trapped energy caused by tension, a lack of breath flow and a tendency to hold back when you’re under pressure. Let’s look at each of those three.
Tense muscles are prone to tremors. Try to hold a difficult pose for a period of time, and your muscles start to quiver. The same dynamic effects your speech. Your voice is a product of your body, so muscle tremors anywhere in your body will be reflected in your voice. A relaxed body will produce a relaxed even voice.
A lack of breath support will result in a trembling voice. Your voice is powered by breath. When the power source becomes weak and unsteady then your voice becomes weak and unsteady. Cultivating a strong consistent outflow of breath when you speak will help sustain a strong consistent tone of voice.
A lack of engagement will cause a shaky voice. When you’re nervous you tend to be more reserved. You don’t speak with your whole voice. When your voice isn’t fully engaged it becomes weak, wobbly and easily overcome by nervousness. A fully engaged voice will stay strong, steady and consistent.
In the excitement of performance, if you tense up, stop breathing and start holding back, that energy becomes bottled up, intensifying and vibrating with nowhere to go. Of course your voice starts shaking. When you’re relaxed, using your breath generously and speaking with your whole voice, that heightened energy keeps flowing and gets used constructively.
So what should you do? I know I say this all the time, but it’s always about developing relaxation, breathing and resonance skills. Those are the three pillars that support your strong steady voice. You need to develop these skills and change your speech habits, so when you do public speaking or presentation, your body instinctively knows how to handle that pressure.
Get some basic training, learn a practice routine, and do it at least three times per week. In six to twelve months, you’ll be able to walk to the front of the room, open your mouth and speak with a voice that’s strong and steady despite the nervousness you might feel inside. Given some time and practice you will master that shaking trembling voice.
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