How do you use your public speaking voice?
You’ve done everything you can to understand your audience, craft the conversation you wish to have, you know your story inside out and have envisioned what success looks like.
Effective communication involves both verbal and non-verbal interaction
The words we use in delivering our message are critical but how we say them is extremely important.
I am often disturbed by the misquote of a very important piece of research when it comes to communication dynamics.
Professor Albert Mehrabiam didn’t say that in terms of the impact and importance of communication, 7 % is verbal 38% is vocal 55% is body language.
That’s not what he said
Professor Mehrabian’s study did not conclude that 93% of what we communicate is non-verbal in terms of impact.
He didn’t say that it doesn’t matter what you say.
What he actually concluded was that when it comes to the expression of feelings when words and non-verbal messages are in conflict, people believe the non-verbal.
It’s all about congruence
If there’s a mismatch between what we are saying and how we are saying it then the impact of the words we use is significantly diminished.
People won’t trust what you say.
The relevance of Professor Mehrabian’s research to presenting and public speaking is important.
It reinforces the need for sincerity, belief and congruence.
Words are extremely important
I recently attended a very high profile digital technology conference.
A number of well respected executives representing global brands were presenting.
They were passionate, energetic, colourful and animated to the degree that I had absolutely no doubt that they totally believed and felt what they were presenting.
The problem was the message was meaningless
It was weak, ill- considered and nothing more than an ego trip for the speakers which cost me hundreds of pounds for the privilege, or rather the misfortune of listening to.
In short, the way they said what they said was brilliant in terms of body language, vocal variety and visuals but the words were actually quite pointless.
It’s a common mistake
Having a great public speaking voice on it’s own isn’t enough.
Our content must contain ideas or information that will offer tangible benefit to either the professional or personal lives of your audience.
Once you are certain that your presentation content is rich, relevant and rewarding, you can switch your attention to your public speaking voice.
Using your public speaking voice
One of the greatest gifts any presenter has is their voice.
Unfortunately, many presenters are either unaware of the power they have in the way they actually speak.
In terms of vocal presence, we have all sat through presentations where the speaker has presented with a monotone voice.
Your public speaking voice has the power to
It can also concern, anger, assert or even depress you audience.
That’s just a fraction of the power you have through your voice
Your audience will make judgments about you personally and the ideas you’re presenting simply through the sound of your voice.
They’ll judge your sincerity, passion and credibility.
Use it mindfully
The mindful presenter considers very carefully and consciously how they want their audience to feel.
They pay close attentention to the following:
Ou first challenge is to speak loudly enough so everyone can hear us, especially in a large audience.
If you don’t vary your volume your audience will fall into a hypnotic trance.
You can draw your audience’s attention closer to you either by raising your voice or lowering it.
Choose mindfully how you wish to emphasise a key point.
You can lower or raise your voice when you are changing an idea, theme or simply want a point to stand out.
You may want to raise your volume gradually as you build up towards a point.
Imagine trying to express passion for an idea when your tone is monotone and somber.
How about trying to show the audience you’re in control, yet you speak with a desperate tone.
They key is congruence
Whatever you want your audience to feel, you have to internalize and feel it for yourself first.
If you’re sharing a story don’t just tell it, re-live it.
Great speakers connect with their listeners by modulating their tone effectively and emphasising key words.
Vary your pace and change it up and down from time to time.
Try speaking more slowly for emphasis and then faster to convey energy and excitement.
Many presenters tell us that one of their ‘bad habits’ is that they speak too fast. If that sounds like you, try building in a few timely and meaningful pauses into your structure.
Practice reading out loud
Take a few pages from a book and practice reading them out at different speeds and different volumes and see how it feels.
You also don’t want to speak too slowly as that could tire and even bore your audience. Practise speeding up and down and find the right balance for you and your listeners.
Not only can a well-positioned pause help you to slow down, it can be used to:
– Build curiosity and impact
– Give your audience time to think and absorb what you just said
– Give you time to think, breathe and stay present
A timely pause is the ‘jewel in the crown’ of your public speaking voice.
It adds gravitas and helps you to create a little drama and suspense giving more meaning to words.
Imagine listening to a piece of music where the pitch, rhythm and melody never change.
You wouldn’t be listening to it for too long
The same goes for presenters who don’t vary their pitch.
Another great way to connect with your audience is by varying the highs and lows within your vocal range.
Every presenter has the range in vocal pitch to sound like a commander, motivator, facilitator, analyst.
Take our free style quiz to get some insight into how you may come across.
Record your voice
Most speakers have never actually heard their own voice.
Record the sound of your voice, play it back to yourself and listen to it very carefully.
Could you listen to you?
How do you make you feel?
How does your public speaking voice help or hinder your audience to feel the way you want them to feel?
If you need a little help developing your public speaking voice:
– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.
– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.
– Get yourself some excellent presentation training
Image: Courtesy of flickr.com