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Top 5 Mistakes that Make Professional Speakers Sound Terrible (and how to make sure you don’t!)

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For spiritual entrepreneurs, one of the most effective ways to be seen and heard with your business is to speak on stage, and yet hardly any of you are doing it. And of the hundreds of authors, entrepreneurs and motivational speakers I have seen, a LOT of them are unknowingly making horrible mistakes that leave a lasting impression on the audience in a bad way.

I see a lot out there about how to build your business through speaking, how to write your signature talk, how to perform on stage, stuff like that. But nobody really ever shares the stuff I’m about to, which is weird because these tips could be the difference for many of you between a happy audience who loves you … and an audience full of people with a forced smile on because they feel so awkward for you.

I know it’s already hard enough for many spiritual entrepreneurs to get up the courage to step onto a stage and actually talk about YOU and your business. If you want some help with those fears, read my article “How to Be HOT on Stage” or get in touch with me if you want one on one support. The good news is, YOU can sound BETTER than a lot of professional speakers out there, if you just avoid these 3 mistakes and use the tips I’ve got for you below.

As a singer for the past 30 years, and a motivational speaker since 1999, sometimes I had a great sound system and sound person and sometimes it was a nightmare. I made enough mistakes in my early singing career – in recording studios, television studios, radio stations and on stage – to know now what NOT to do when you get on stage to speak or sing with a mic… and what to do to create a positive lasting impression with your audience.

Mistake #1: “P Popping”

Pronouncing your p’s and b’s like you normally would. Nope. You can’t do that with a mic, or it sounds like someone just threw your mic on the ground. You need to soften those p’s and b’s and practice it before you get on stage. I can’t count how many entrepreneurs and even best-selling authors I’ve seen make this mistake, and it makes them look and sound unprofessional. How I learned this? With a super-sensitive high end studio mic that caught EVERYTHING, even down to the sounds of the saliva moving in your mouth lol. FYI, most stage mics are NOT that sensitive, so just work on those p’s and b’s and you’ll be fine.. 😉

Mistake #2: Voice Gone Wild

Most people are nervous when they get on stage, or when they are holding a mic and they go to speak. Stage fright can kick in and kind of take over your voice. All of a sudden you feel like you’ve run out of breath, or your mouth is too dry. Your voice feels like it’s shaking, and so does your body. All kinds of not-so-wonderful feelings and sensations can take the power out of your voice. And then there’s your self-beliefs and self-confidence. If you let your fear take hold of you, that’s what can happen. Here’s what to do instead: Warm up your voice and your body! And BREATHE into your belly. Then you can take control of your emotions and voice. And your voice will sound better.

On the other hand, some entrepreneurs talk too loudly into the mic, thinking it’s compelling, when actually half the room is wishing they had ear plugs and they’re trying their best not to cringe or hold their ears.

Pay attention to the audience – how are they responding? Are they leaning in with interest or leaning in because they can’t hear you? Are their teeth clenched or are they genuinely smiling? Adjust your vocal volume accordingly. If you’re lucky, the stage will have monitors, which are amps facing YOU, so that you can hear what your voice sounds like to your audience. More often than not, for speaking gigs, that won’t happen, so you’ll need to pay attention.

Mistake #3 Mic Gone Wild

Please control that mic!! Listen to your voice as you speak. Pay attention to your volume, your tones, how your voice sounds. I know for many of you, that’s going to be an issue, because you don’t like your voice, or you’re so in your fear about speaking that you’re not even in your body. So the first thing you’re going to have to do is get back in your body and fall in love with your voice. If you want help with that (and with using your voice as sacred medicine), get in touch with me.

Pay attention to how far away the mic is – that is CRUCIAL. Most people who aren’t used to speaking hold the mic too far away. That can make your voice sound whiny, irritating, screechy or just thin. Or people are straining to hear you. And then if you overcompensate by bringing it too close and speaking too loudly, people are covering their ears or cringing. When your voice gets louder, move the mic slightly off centre or move your head slightly to the left or right. When your voice gets softer, bring the mic closer. Mic control is definitely an art that you’ll want to master.

TIP: Play with the mic!! I bought a mic years ago and then an amp to go with it. These days you can just find a way to plug a mic into your computer. Hearing what you sound like before you ever get on stage will help you not go into shock when you first hear yourself through your outer ear. We normally only hear ourselves from inside our bodies, not from outside. Totally different sound.

Mistake #4: No Sound Check Specifically for YOU.

Sometimes I don’t demand a sound check if they’ve done a general one and I’m not singing. I usually end up regretting it, unless I get an amazing sound person. I’ll be writing about this more in another blog post, but here’s what you need to know. Most times when there has already been a sound check, it’s been done by a man. The problem with that? Male voices have depth and richness and are low. Women’s voices are usually thinner and higher – so the mic has NOT been adjusted for a woman’s voice and definitely not for yours unless you’ve done a sound check. Get the sound person to “warm up” how your voice sounds. Bring down the highs and bring up the lows. There are a TON of other benefits to getting a sound check, which I’ll write about in another article soon. (:

Mistake #5: No Warmup.

When you don’t warm up, you can feel shaky, nervous, tense, and your voice is then tighter, higher and thinner. Warm up your voice and body!!!! Take the time, even if it feels awkward and you have to ask for a space to do it in. I never used to and the difference is like night and day. When I started warming up properly, I immediately noticed the huge difference in the quality and physical sensation of my voice. It becomes richer, clearer, more colourful, and filled up with my energy.

BIG HINT: This is the part when you bring your VPS out to play!! Your Voice, Power and Spirit mingling together before you get on stage will make you more magnetic, grow your energy field bigger, and make you naturally more confident. If you want to know more about how to activate your VPS.

So yes! It’s not all about your signature talk or how to sell from the stage as an entrepreneur (that pitchfest model is dying a slow death in my opinion and for most of you as well as myself, it is NOT a fit). There are other elements involved. Your energy, your voice, your microphone technique, and honouring yourself with a sound check are just a few.

After 30 years of singing (and about 17 years of motivational speaking) on stages in front of hundreds to thousands of people, I know what it’s like to be nervous, terrified, shaking, have your mind go blank, forget what you’re talking about (or forget my lyrics) and all kinds of stuff.

I also know how amazing it feels when you have a sweet speaking gig with an amazing sound person and everything flows well. The more you can do on your end to make your speaking experience go smoothly, the less nervous and the more confident you will be. And your audiences will love you.

I’d love to hear YOUR experiences or questions about speaking on stage. I’d be delighted if you share your comments below.

Love & Blessings,

Brenda MacIntyre, Medicine Song Woman



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About Brenda MacIntyre

About Brenda MacIntyre

Known by her indigenous name Medicine Song Woman, Brenda MacIntyre has shared her evocative melodic voice and fusion of reggae, rap and indigenous hand drum healing music with appreciative audiences of 30 to 3,000 across North America. The Toronto-based Juno Award-winning singer has been featured nationally on MuchMusic, CTV, CP24, APTN and most recently, Global and the front page of the Toronto Star.

Powered by her grief from losing her son to murder in 2016, Brenda MacIntyre pours her soulful voice over a confluence of indigenous hand drum healing, soft rap and conscious roots reggae in her album “Picking Up the Pieces,” released in September 2019.

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