Great speakers have great articulation. You could be passionate about your speech but if you don’t form your words clearly, your message is lost. How do you have great articulation? It’s as easy as opening your mouth. But, in today’s society we rarely open our mouths. Perhaps because we are Canadian and don’t want to grandstand or stand out. Also, a lot of us Canadians live in a cold climate. When we are freezing for most of the year, we don’t want to open up our mouths when we go outside or start our car. So we have the habit of holding our body and mouth tight. I am not proposing that you over pronounce or exaggerate each word. Giving each word the same weight is boring to the audience, plus it sounds patronizing. Like when parents want to clearly tell a teenager that their curfew will not be extended!
Ideally when you speak, you should have at least a quarter-inch space between your upper and lower molars. To see if you are clenching your jaw and not opening your mouth a quarter-inch, repeat the months of the year. Now take a pencil, preferably a clean one. Place it lengthwise between your teeth. Say the months of the year again, trying to be as clear as you can.
Then take the pencil out of your mouth and repeat the months of the year. Do you feel any different? This will make you more aware of opening your mouth and also hear a clearer sound. That is because the sound is coming from the front of your mouth via the lips and not from the back of the throat. After you have mastered the pencil, then try using a wine cork, holding it between your front teeth, protruding out of your mouth. For best results, drink the wine on a different day!
Many of my clients have difficulty projecting their voice to the last row of seats in the room. (and please don’t think that a microphone will help. It will just amplify the problem!) Breathing deeply into the lungs helps but so does articulation. When you pronounce the ending of a word, it sails through the air to the back of the room.
You work hard on your speech, make sure everyone has the opportunity to hear what you have to say.