The primary tool of any speaker is the voice. So why are many speeches are delivered in a flat monotone with unvarying volume and pace? No matter how interesting the subject-matter, it’s the delivery that makes an audience listen. If there is no richness to your voice, your speech will have no impact.
There are several aspects to the effective use of your voice:
Volume: Ever been told to speak up so that “those at the back can hear you”?
Of course this is important, but speak too loudly and those at the front will start to feel uncomfortable.
- If the room is small enough not to require amplification, speaking slightly louder than a normal conversational tone will usually fill the room with your voice and still allow you to vary your volume.
- Raising your voice just a little above this level will emphasise an important point without you shouting.
- Lowering your voice a little below this level into a “stage whisper” will help you build rapport with your audience or convey a feeling of a shared confidence.
Pitch: If you want to
- Convey excitement – raise the pitch of your voice a lot
- Emphasise a question – raise the pitch just a little
- Indicate sincerity or add weight to positive statements – lower the pitch of your voice
It is important to get pitch right because getting it wrong can cause listeners to misinterpretation of what you’re saying – for example allowing the pitch to rise at the end of a statement such as “I am sure we all agree with our esteemed colleague” will turn it
- into a question
and coupled with a raised eyebrow
- a negative statement
Pace: Ever listened to a speech where every word and phrase is delivered at exactly the same speed? How dull is that?
- Increasing the speed of delivery will help you convey happiness, excitement and enthusiasm
- Slow your delivery down and enunciate each word carefully – when you want to make a serious point
Emphasis: Adding a little vocal emphasis on particular words can completely change the meaning of a sentence.
Try saying the following phrase with the emphasis on the highlighted word. I didn’t say you were unwell – Someone else said it I didn’t say you were unwell – An emphatic denial that I said it. I didn’t say you were unwell – I implied it I didn’t say you were unwell – I said someone else was unwell I didn’t say you were unwell – I said you were still unwell I didn’t say you were unwell – I said something else about you
Variety: Changing pace, volume, pitch and emphasis will:
- make your speech much richer and easier on the listening audience
- make your messages more understandable
- increase the chances of your messages being acted on
Use each of the above techniques along with facial expressions, good eye contact and gestures and you can turn any speech into a masterpiece.