It’s Not Just About What You Say, It’s How You Say It That Matters
We’ve all sat in a presentation and been captivated by a speaker’s delivery before. ‘Confident’, ‘engaging’ and ‘natural’ - these are the words that often come to mind whenever we hear someone communicate effortlessly and charm us with their charisma. Even if their content doesn’t stand out, we often remember such speakers for their innate ability to keep us engaged when they are in the spotlight.
How are they able to do so?
Whenever we deliver a speech or presentation, some of us tend to spend hours or even days rehearsing what we are going to say. Your content might be spot on and you may even have all your lines memorised but if your delivery is dull or flat, there is a high chance that are you are going to lose your listeners.
So what’s the secret?
It’s not just about what you say, it’s how you say it that matters.
Many of us underestimate the power of our voice and how adding little tweaks can offer us the vocal variety needed to hook our listeners. It’s what many great speakers adopt in their deliveries that makes them stand out. Being able to use our voice effectively is a great way to complement our message, enhance our speech delivery and engage our audience.
Incorporate the following vocal elements to sound more expressive and impactful in your next speech or presentation:
Vocal power refers to how loud or soft your voice sounds. Generally, having a naturally loud voice allows you to project yourself effortlessly in a large room and sound confident, whereas a softer voice can make you sound nervous or unsure. Varying your volume during your speech, however, is a great way to add impact, strengthen your message and depict different emotions. For example, increasing your volume is an effective technique to emphasise a specific point and can even reflect excitement or enthusiasm. A lower volume (almost a whisper), on the other hand, may be used to draw your audience in to listen more intently or even demonstrate sadness, fear and regret.
The pace of your voice refers to how quickly or slowly you speak. Speaking too quickly throughout your presentation may overwhelm your audience and make it difficult for them to keep up with you. Speaking too slowly throughout may dim the energy in the room and put your audience to sleep. Varying your rate of speech is another great technique to keep your audience on the edge of their seats. Slow down to emphasise key points or complex ideas to allow your audience to digest your message. Pick up the pace to create a sense of enthusiasm or energy in the room when you need to motivate or inspire them.
Vocal pitch refers to how high or low your voice sounds. Generally, a lower and deeper pitch reflects power and authority whereas a higher pitch is associated with excitement. Exploring different intonation patterns (within syllables, words or even sentences) in your speech is an effective way to avoid monotony and convey different meanings or emotions to your listeners. Try saying the following sentences aloud to notice how a change in intonation can reflect an entirely different meaning:
I’m so happy for you! ↗ (Your pitch gets higher, making you sound excited)
I’m so happy for you. ↘
(Your pitch lowers, making you sound insincere and almost sarcastic!)
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘Silence is golden’ before and this is especially true when it comes to delivering a speech. Adopting well-timed pauses is an extremely powerful speaking technique to draw your audience in. They are often used in speeches to create suspense or interest before delivering a strong punch line or message. Pauses also give you time to plan what to say next and allow your audience to visualise the picture you are painting for them.
In conclusion, a voice with rhythm and melody can have a major effect on your audience. If you want to speak more expressively to captivate your listeners, start adding these vocal elements into your speech. Connect deeply to the emotion and meaning of your message, think about how you want your audience to feel and plan which aspects of your delivery to incorporate pauses into and vary your volume, pace and pitch.
Simply put - think of your voice as an instrument and start learning how to play it well!