Capturing the audience with your voice

Maria Cauchi Simpson

On the day of your presentation

Try not to have anything else to do that morning except focus on the day ahead. Before leaving home, practise the breathing exercises. Relax and stretch your body — yoga, tai chi and meditation are perfect — then start to warm up your voice very gently.

Arrive early. If you have time to have a cup of tea and then go over your presentation in the space that you will be performing in you will feel much calmer. If you can find a quiet corner you can do some further voice and breathing exercises. Then energise yourself and go for it! If you are having fun the kids will too.

How can I use my voice to the best effect?

First, you must relax. Being nervous can cause tension in your throat and chest and this makes your voice rise in pitch, which can be unpleasant to listen to. So breathe. The voice resonates through the whole body; stretch and relax your body.

Breathing exercises

Read Freeing the Natural Voice by Kristin Linklater for an in-depth explanation of how the voice works and for more exercises. Have good posture. Not slouching or arching your back will help your breath flow freely. Vocal folds and larynx will tighten if breath is not free. Tension in chest and head resonators will affect vocal register.

Stand comfortably. By bringing awareness to each part of the body release tension in the toes, ankles, calves, thighs, pelvis, stomach, chest, shoulders, throat, then raise elbows, then hands standing with arms above the head in a V.

Then, starting at the wrists, drop wrists, elbows, arms, chin to chest and start to roll down, one vertebra at a time until you are drooped over. Relax. Then uncurl the spine one vertebra at a time, raising the head last so that it floats up. Build up to a yawn. Stretch.

Find the moment to pause, hold us in suspense, then quicken the pace.

Breathe through the whole body. Consciously think of releasing tension from your lower belly, stomach area and shoulders. Let breath come in and out naturally. Do not force anything. When you need to take a breath, take it. With a relaxed mouth start breathing through the mouth. Let a natural fff sound escape on out breath. Do not force it. Do not bring any tension back into the body. Repeat a few times.

Gently 'sigh-explore' different feelings: grateful sigh, deep sigh of relief, sad sigh. Then return to natural breathing.

Hum. Let the vibration tickle your lips. Explore different pitch from the bottom to the top of your register. Explore vibrations by touching your lips, cheeks, nose and forehead, top of skull, back of neck, throat and chest while you hum. Hummmmm.

Blow air out of the lips like a horse. Let lips flutter gently. Then add a bubble sound. Release tongue tension. Poke tongue out. Try to touch your chin, your nose. Massage the inside of your mouth with the tongue in circular motions each way.

Remember to keep your voice always forward in the mouth and never back in the throat.

Light and shade

Varying the tone, finding character voices, using a whisper or a loud voice to emphasise key moments, will all help to keep your audience captivated. If you speak in a monotone the children will switch off.

Is your natural speaking voice fast or slow? Find a happy medium.

Find the moment to pause, hold us in suspense, then quicken the pace.

Elongate a word, enjoying every syllable. Sss … qu … aaa … shhhh. Practise tongue twisters to improve articulation.

Practise reading everything out loud: the newspaper, books, whatever you can find. Read to anyone who will listen: kids, friends, the dog, a tree. Imagine there are hundreds of children listening. Practise, looking up from the page as much as possible.

Memorise your piece then practise as if you are:

  • Cinderella
  • 3, 6, 10, 15 years old
  • A prince |  A doctor  | A clown |  A pirate
  • A radio announcer
  • A fairy.

Don’t think too much, just have fun discovering all the voices within you. You may discover some voices that you can actually use. Always practise with intention and energy.

Tell your piece in an excited whisper, with a feeling of elation or sadness. Discover the actor within you.

Project — speak a little louder than you normally would. Sing to the radio, get used to hearing your voice and being comfortable with it.

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Maria Cauchi Simpson

Maria Cauchi Simpson (Bachelor of Arts, Performing Arts UWS) started her professional career in 1988 as an actor, singer and dancer and has worked in Theatre, Film and Television. She has trained hundreds of actors in the art of performing for children and also runs music theatre workshops with her original scripts for children in Years K to 6.

Microphone technique

Hold the microphone level with your chin and fist distance away. Your shoulders should remain level and relaxed.

  • Don’t let the microphone drop.
  • Don’t hold it so that it is covering your mouth.
  • Don’t grip it too hard.
  • Practise, using a bottle or a hairbrush.
  • Try to remain relaxed.

If you speak in a monotone the children will switch off.


Today I give myself permission to be free of inhibitions. To be spontaneous. To go with the flow … and have fun!