Curing the Mumbler

Why talk if you’re not letting your audience hear you? Here's how to sharpen up your diction...

Curing the Mumbler

We’ve all been there: we’re interested in the speaker’s topic; nothing distracting is happening outside the conference hall; nobody is coughing incessantly beside us. We squint as we lean forward, desperately hoping this might solve the problem. But not, we still can’t quite hear what the speaker is saying and eventually we give up trying to. 

Mumblers can usually be split into two categories: the shy and the lazy. We can’t hear Mr Shy because, in a hopeless attempt to block out the audience, he’s dipped his head and, in the process, cut off his larynx with his chin. Also, his tendency to cover his mouth as he speaks is another disabling factor. Mrs Lazy is a different kettle of fish. Often perceiving herself as ‘cool’, she rolls vowel sound into vowel sound, drops consonants and barely opens her mouth. Her speech is just the right side of slurred. Think Elvis Presley when speaking - not singing. And of course, some people are a mumbly mixture of both!

If you’ve been told that you’re difficult to hear, then hopefully some of the tips below will cure your output problem:

  • Say a few tongue twisters before you begin your presentation. This will warm up the muscles of your mouth so that enunciating clearly won’t feel like such an effort.
  • Stand up straight and lift your head when presenting. Imagine you’re wearing a neck brace. 
  • Open your mouth wider than you normally would. Take your awareness to your mouth now and again. By feeling the work it needs to do to produce speech, your enunciation will be much improved. 
  • Pronounce your consonants. All of them! And not just the ones at the ends of words; the ones in the middle of words too. 

I tackle the causes and effects of mumbling comprehensively in my Using Your Voice Effectively workshop. So if you manage a team that isn't always clearly understood vocally, then aspects of the workshop will really help. 

If you enjoyed this article, then maybe try some of my other blog posts.

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Five stars
“This was an excellent event, very well presented and professionally put together. It covered practical, actual and hypothetical situations including projection and voice control. Would definitely recommend this to other members.”

Cllr Tony Williams, Blackpool Conservative Group Leader

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