Hey Speaker – It’s Tool Time!

by drjim on May 12, 2009

A Speaker's Voice Contains Many Tools Than Can Be Used During A Speech

A Speaker’s Voice Contains Many Tools Than Can Be Used During A Speech

When you find yourself giving a speech, you quickly realize that what you are missing is any sort of tools with which to give the speech. If you were a painter, you’d have a canvas, brushes, paints, thinners, etc. with which to make your creation. However, when you are giving a speech it’s just you and your audience. Make you feel sorta naked, doesn’t it?

It turns out that you actually do have a toolbox with which to create your speech – the words that you’ll be using. It turns out that not only the words that you choose to use, but the way in which you speak these words can cause a powerful reaction in your audience. Debra Johanyak is a professor of English at the University of Akron and she has come up with a list of different ways that we can use our voice to make our point during a speech.

Let’s take a look at the different verbal delivery “tools” that Dr. Johanyak has come up with:

  • Words That You Accent: It turns out that not all words are created equal – you have the ability to emphasize certain words. As an example, consider the sentence “After cutting the green wire, a sudden silence descended over the entire bomb squad.” Simply by pronouncing the word “green” differently, you can draw your audience’s attention to it.
  • Slow Pitch Speaking: The pitch of your voice controls how high and how low your voice goes. This is a powerful way to communicate emotion during your speech: “Once I saw that the cage was empty, I knew that the 6′ snake could be anywhere in the house.” The word “anywhere” can be said in a higher pitch than the other words in order to draw attention to it.
  • Just Be Quiet: The most powerful speaking tool is also the simplest – just be quiet. When we add periods of silence to our speeches, it adds emphasis to the words that came before and sets the stage for the words that are to come next.

There you have it – now your speaking toolbox is actually looking rather full!

When you give a speech do you use your voice to its fullest? Have you ever ever accented words or varied your pitch to make a point? Are you able to remember to use quiet pauses to make a point? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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