By David Rose, Director LACS Training Brussels
Question: Which three ‘voice ingredients’ do they all use?
Answer: Pausing, variation and projection
So, let’s have a look at the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of each of these in turn:
Caution: Most speakers’ commonest mistake is not pausing regularly and systematically, especially in the crucial first minute when their adrenaline-fuelled nerves are at their highest.
If you fall into this trap, you inevitably commit the ‘three deadly sins’:
Remember: speed per se is a good way to lose rather than take and keep your audience’s attention
- Prepare, prepare – mark your pauses in your notes/speech, especially for the first minute
- Rehearse – practice voicing (not just reading) your presentation/speech, getting used to your pauses to moderate and optimise your speed of delivery
- Consciously manage pauses – top tip: make a short point, count to two in your head while breathing in, make the next point
Caution: We all know a flat, monotone voice is a serious ‘turn off’ for any and every audience, meaning the speaker loses their attention very quickly…
…but moving a step on from this (unfortunately not rare) extreme, how well does your voice really engage your audience?
Consciously vary your tone by using the time gained through systematically pausing to:
- Emphasise key words and points, links between them and transitions from one part/section to another
- Apply intonation e.g. falling to state a fact and rising for a rhetorical/direct question
Caution: Microphone or no microphone, speakers’ voices often fail to properly project around the whole room.
Self evidently, if your entire audience can’t clearly and comfortably hear you at all times, you’ll obviously lose both attention and impact.
- Raise your volume – it should be c.20% higher than your ‘normal’ when speaking in public
- Speak directly to your audience – ensure your eye contact is on them as much as possible, rather than your notes or slides. Top Tip: Use the ‘3-step’approach: (a) briefly look at your notes/slide; (b) look up/around at your audience; (c) speak
- Preparation, Preparation – for larger rooms, check the sound levels: have a colleague/ technician stand at the furthest point from you in the room/around the table and check your voice levels
Your voice is one of your primary ‘weapons’ in taking and keeping your audience’s attention.
Meaningful content delivered with conscious pausing, variation and a well-projected voice demands audience attention, so helping you produce real impact.
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