Reader Question: I am a shy, introvert and my voice is fairly quiet. Is it possible for me to develop stage presence and/or increase the volume of my voice? ~Anonymous, Boston, MA
First, let me say that your personality trait (shy, introvert) can present with a softer voice or a louder voice. It is true that a tendency to hold back in a room can affect the breath energy in a way that impacts volume but it a possible correlation, not a fixed one. Shyness is also not a fixed point and can change over time through experience and desire. Also, many talented voice users are also introverts, so that is not a limiting factor.
The volume of the voice is related to factors including your physical build, culture and upbringing, and air use. For everyone, there is an optimal flow of air through the vocal folds which will make a sound impactful in the room. This sound may not be “loud” compared to other voices in the room but in a way volume is the wrong measure.
The question is, can your voice be heard and have an impact in the room? The answer is most definitively, yes. You begin with efficient breath, followed by learning about and utilizing the body’s resonating chambers. These increase the impact of that efficient sound. Also, don’t underestimate impact of articulation of language and clarity of thought on the voice.
Next up, Presence. Most of us can feel when someone has presence. But, what are we feeling?
For me, Presence is simply the sensation of air molecules in space being disrupted. It is the human body’s physical response to efficient air use and resonance entering a room with intention. This type of voice use causes the sound entering the room to excite the air around the speaker or singer and create a wave to and from the source of the sound. The listener then responds not just with hearing but with their whole physiology. That sound wave is, in fact, moving through the bodies in the room.
To review, volume and impact can be largely unaffected by shyness and introversion. Presence can also exist in a shy, introvert when voice use is efficient, resonant, and intentional. Presence is helped by the willingness to share a part of yourself with the room. So my question to all of you, are you willing? I hope you say, yes.
Do you have a voice use question? Great, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best.
Gina Razón is the principal voice specialist at GROW Voice LLC, a full-service voice and speech studio in Boston’s Back Bay. She has over 16 years of experience both as a teacher of voice and speech, and a voraciously curious voice user. Gina has worked professionally as a classical singer for over a decade and more recently as a professional public speaker. For more information on the studio or to book Gina visit www.growvoice.com.