Soft Speaker RX: Top 4 Ways to Let Yourself Be Heard

Soft Speaker RX: Top 4 Ways to Let Yourself Be Heard 
By Susan Berkley


A client writes: 
“When in a social setting with significant background noise I am unable to speak loud enough for others to hear me. At times it looks as though I am just mouthing words and others just nod their heads pretending to hear what I say. My requests to waiters in restaurants often go unheard. My only other option is yelling, which I do not want to do. Is there anything that I can do?”

Susan Berkley responds: 
If you are not being heard, you may think it’s because you are not speaking loudly enough. But actually, volume may be only part of the problem. Do a systems check on these four areas:




There is a difference between not being heard (being inaudible) and not being understood (being unintelligible). Sometimes people confuse the two. Unintelligibility may be caused by problems with articulation and pronunciation. People with poor articulation can sound throaty because their tongue is pulled too far back , or they may sound muffled because they don’t move their tongue enough when they speak. Both problems affect our ability to be understood. Make sure your tongue is positioned toward the front of your mouth and that you use your tongue to clearly enunciate your words. For severe articulation problems, consult a licensed speech pathologist.
If you mispronounce our words you will also have a difficult time being understood. Brush up on pronunciation skills by consulting a good pronouncing dictionary. At the Merriam Webster website you can actually hear how many words are supposed to be pronounced in standard American English. Try this cool feature at



Think of your voice like a volume knob on a radio with five settings: For normal and healthy conversational speech, do not use volume levels 1 and 5. Both can strain the voice. We should yell only in an emergency and save our whispers for the library, theater or bedroom.
A conversational volume level will differ with each situation. It must be adjusted so that we are speaking at a level that is slightly louder than the ambient noise around us. Ambient noise is the background noise level in a particular environment. It differs greatly from place to place. There is much more ambient noise, for example, in a crowded restaurant than in a quiet conference room.
While most of your speech will be at a conversational volume level, varying your vocal volume to be slightly softer or louder will add emphasis and color to your speech. Volume should be adjusted as appropriate to each individual situation; a softer voice in an office where others are working, a louder voice when joking with friends in the parking lot.

Volume level should not be confused with projection. To project the voice, we don’t try to yell or force it out of our body. That can cause strain. To have a voice that carries well, you must use your body’s natural resonators. Your body has three resonating cavities: the voice box, the mouth and the nose. The voice is produced at the vocal chords and then amplified in the facial mask around the lips and nose. To sound rich, resonant and project without strain, you must focus your voice in the facial mask, blending the oral and nasal resonators.

Speech therapist Dr. Morton Cooper says the simplest way to find your facial mask is to hum. Try it now. HMMMMMMMM. Good. Now practice alternating humming and speaking. HMMMMM My name is Susan. HMMMM My favorite color is blue. HMMM Many people say I’m a great dancer, etc… Have some fun with it. Practice humming and speaking throughout the day. Once you get the hang of what a resonant voice feels like you can drop the hum and feel the vibration of your words in your facial mask.



I have found that there is often a strong psychological component to communication difficulties. Soft speakers may unconsciously be trying to hold themselves back, inhibit their self-expression, or stifle themselves and these factors should be explored. For more insight on overcoming self-limiting behaviors I recommend an excellent book called The Origin Of illness by Dr Norberto R. Keppe.

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Susan Berkley is a top voice over artist and founder of The Great Voice Company, a company devoted to teaching great voices around the world how to become successful voice over actors. The Great Voice Company is an international leader in voice over training and in providing top quality voice over recordings in all languages to discerning businesses and marketers. For additional information visit

Copyright 2013, The Great Voice Company. All Rights Reserved. Soft Speaker RX: Top 4 Ways to Let Yourself Be Heard.

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