Build Your Vocal Platform – It Starts With the Diaphragm

Vocal Platform 003

Having a strong vocal platform is an essential ingredient for speakers. Whether you are speaking for 10 minutes or all day, developing a strong speaking platform will make your voice more engaging, and not to mention you will still have one at the end of the day.

We all breathe, however, many of us do not breathe correctly. Practicing the correct way to breathe can be the difference between having a voice for the duration of your talk, or ending up with a painful throat and a tired voice.

The first key is breathing from the diaphragm.   To test this, stand up! Shoulders back chest out, head straight. Now place your hand on your belly take a deep breath and notice if the breath is raising your hand or if your shoulders are rising. If your shoulders are rising your breath is shallow and you vocal platform will not hold up. Practice breathing from the diaphragm and you will have a strong and more lasting voice.

If you are having trouble breathing from your diaphragm, lie down and place your hand on your belly and take a deep breath. You will feel that you are breathing from the diaphragm. Your hand will rise and fall. Ever wonder why a baby can cry for long periods of time. It is breathing  from the diaphragm, or so I was told.


“Hey when is this guy gonna stop talking? Lunch is ready!”

talking too long


How many times have you sat in a speech or a day long training session and asked yourself the question; “Is he going to finish on time?” Or you ask yourself, “If the speaker is only on page 2 of the handout, will he make it to page 10?”

Every speaker at the start of their assignment thinks they have plenty of time to say and do everything. They feel they can make their points and still be able to add other facts and figures. It is only when they are past the half-way mark in their time allotment and they look at what they have left to say and the panic begins to set in. Or they are the last speaker of the day and their speech is 45 minutes long but it is 10 minutes to Happy Hour. As they say, we have all been there and done that. Here are some lessons that I have learned to help you keep your sanity and be in good graces with your audience.

First rule is to always remember that your audience would rather have you finish 10 minutes early than to keep them 1 minute late. Your opening and conclusion should be memorized but the body is where you can help adjust your time.  For example, if you are the last speaker before lunch, you may have to cut your speech to finish on time. Assign the main points of your speech on a sliding scale of importance. When you know that you are going to run out of time, start to mentally remove the less important parts of your speech.

Concerning handouts, you either have to be extremely strict with your time or use a little devious trick. If you have 5 point handout, you may want to tell your audience that you are only going to speak on the 3 most important points. If you do finish all 5 points, you give the impression to your audience that you delivered more than you promise. This is always a good thing.

You may want to have a moderator to control the flow of the questions and answers portion of your program. Make them the bad guy with regardless to shutting off the questions.

Remember your audience’s time is more important than yours. You may not be the cause running out of time but you can be the hero to fixing it

Want to make your speech more memorable? Learn to incorporate the art of cadence into your work.


According to Webster’s online dictionary, cadence is defined as “the way a person’s voice changes by gently rising and falling while he or she is speaking.”

As a speaker, if you can incorporate (and maybe even try to master) the use of cadence into your speech delivery, by varying your vocal inflection – up or down – to pronounce or call attention to a word or group of words in a sentence to stress their meaning, you will begin to see how well this technique works to make your speech more memorable.

Can you put a name with a speech?

“Free at last, Free at last, God almighty we are free at last.”

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

See what I mean. You probably got both of those right. You know why, because these orators were masters of incorporating eloquent pitches of cadence into their speeches.

By using the power of cadence, such as in Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963, “I Have a Dream” speech, or in President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration address, one can see how both of these men mastered their ability to use different vocal inflections to set a tone for how they wanted their words to be remembered, after all, these two works are some of the most memorable speeches of all time by American orators.

From time to time, I actually read along with speeches like these. This makes me learn how to slow down more and talk from a normal voice. Take a moment and listen to the top 100 speeches of all time at this link:

Well, here is one proven way to have the crowd in your hand…Learn to apply the use of cadence into your speech delivery, and you, too, can potentially make your speeches more memorable.

Keep on Speaking!

The power of a Pause!!

Words ever so true!

Words ever so true!

Many years ago, someone complimented me on my use of pauses during a speech. I stuttered when I was young. My speech therapist suggested that whenever I started to stutter, I should simply stop speaking. Then…collect my thoughts…relax… and proceed slowly again. Today, I use that same technique as a powerful tool.

One of the mistakes new speakers make is not allowing the audience time to think about what they just said. An important point in a speech needs time to be thought about. Many professional speakers as they approach an important point will give a quick pause, then make their point and follow this with a 3-5 second pause.

At first, many speakers are uncomfortable with doing this. I suggest in your practice time to exaggerate the length of a pause…say make it 8-12 seconds. Afterwards as you give your speech to a live audience, a 3-5 second pause will not be that uncomfortable.