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Voice Lessons

Language is important, but equally important is how language is demonstrated," says Don Abbott, a motivational speaker in Sanibel Island, Florida. In other words, it's what you say and how you say it.

Your voice is a tool that can work for or against you. You may already have a commanding speaking voice, but you may not always use it, especially when you're nervous or overexcited. Developing a consistent speaking voice is a simple matter of awareness and practice. Abbott offers these tips:

1. Practice. The increased confidence you'll feel will come across to your listeners.

2. Breathe. Don't talk nonstop; you'll sound anxious and insecure. Allow yourself time to pause, collect your thoughts, take a drink of water, and then continue.

3. Enunciate. Careless diction reduces your authority and can result in misunderstandings. "Also be sure your pronunciation is faultless," says Abbott. If you're not sure how to pronounce a word, find out or substitute one that you do know.

4. Pace yourself. Rapid speech can be difficult to understand, while speaking too slowly may sound like you're unsure of yourself.

Finally, Abbott says, if you're nervous, be upfront about it. "Say something like, `This is not a normal situation for me, and I'm a little bit uptight about it. I hope you'll excuse me if I sound that way,' " he says. "You'll put everyone--including yourself--at ease, and you'll have more control over your voice if you're not so tense."

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