Ever happened to you?You’re at a conference and about to hear the keynote speaker. The speaker is an expert in the field and his books have taught you several things about the industry. But five minutes into the talk you start to check your phone, and 10 minutes in you’re drowsy. Finally, you leave the talk early to catch up on some work calls.
Why did this speaker fail to capture your attention despite his credentials?Why was he unable to deliver value?
Because you didn’t pay attention to his voice.
Successful presenters have one secret which they use to communicate their feelings about a topic and keep the audience on their toes is vocal variety.
Research shows that our body language and tone of voice telegraph how we feel about the words we speak. To be more believable and bring your words to life, increase fidelity between your delivery and actions by paying attention to how you use your voice.
Your vocal intonations plays another critical role — that of influencing others. You can strategically change how you say things to emphasize a point, communicate how strongly you feel about it, enlist others, and more clearly communicate a call to action.
The three elements you need to keep in your mind to keep your audience awake, engaged, and comprehending are:
- Volume. Loud or soft.
- Pitch. High or low.
- Rate. Quickly or slowly.
You can vary and combine these three elements to achieve multiple vocal combinations giving your speech texture and nuance.
Here are three tips to get you started:
1. Start with one element
Find out one speech element that’s an issue for you. Record yourself speaking and listen. For example, women sometimes talk in too high a pitch. Notice the difference in Margaret Thatcher’s speech when she lowers her pitch.
Do you speak too fast to compensate for your nerves when presenting to the CEO. At first, vary only one problematic element by doing the opposite of what you typically do: Lower your pitch or slow down your rate.
Once you gain control, you can add other elements.
2. Don’t over think it
When you begin just try to change the volume, pitch, or rate for any one word in each sentence. It doesn’t matter which word or which element you vary.
Notice how it wakes up your speech and your audience. Unsure how to do this? Take a tip from Hans Rosling’s TED Talk on global population. Did you notice that Rosling varies about every third word to increase engagement and comprehension?
3. Turn to poetry
Practice with a nursery rhyme you know well to help you get your mind off the actual topic and try to change the tone of every third word ad see how it sounds.
Now try to say the rhyme out loud a few times highlighting one variation of each vocal element. Exaggerate it. Notice how you sound and how each element makes you feel when you emphasize it. Now try and tone down the variation and say the rhyme again.
Do this well, and your audience will loudly sing your praises.