Let’s Talk About Your Voice

by drjim on March 27, 2012

Having a big mouth does not mean that you have a great voice…

Having a big mouth does not mean that you have a great voice…

How’s that voice of yours doing? When you give a speech, how does your audience react? If they aren’t hanging on your every word, do you think that your voice could be having something to do with it?

Beware The Monotone

Nobody sets out to deliver a speech in a monotone. However, all too often many of us end up doing this. The key is to understand why this happens.

When you are giving a speech, there is a lot going on up there. Specifically, you are working to keep it all together as you try to do multiple things at the same time. Let’s think about what you’ve been asked to do: keep your hands at your sides, make good eye contact, speak clearly, connect with your audience, smile, etc. Oh, and you also need to remember what you’re going to say next.

What happens when we are forced to do all of these things at the same time is that we start to try to put as many of these tasks on autopilot as possible. Unfortunately, the vocal variety that can make our voice interesting to our audience is one thing that we all too often push off to the side.

The end result is that we end up speaking in a monotone. We start out speaking at one level and at a given pitch and then we don’t vary it for the entire speech. Quickly our audience finds it hard to pay attention to what we’re saying because everything starts to sound the same. Clearly this is a problem that we need to do something about.

What You Can Do Without Going Crazy

I have seen speakers solve this monotone problem by going crazy. You’ve probably seen something similar. This happens when a speaker works so hard to vary their voice that we find ourselves paying more attention to how their voice currently sounds instead of focusing on what they are saying.

It doesn’t have to be this way. It turns out that all speakers have three different ways that they can avoid the dreaded monotone without coming across as a circus performer.

During your next speech with a little bit of thought you can consciously make changes to your volume, tone, and pitch of your voice. Although these may seem like small changes to you, by making changes to the way that your voice sounds you’ll be able to grab and hold your audience’s attention.

Volume is the simplest tool that a speaker has. Most of us think that we need to speak louder if we want our audience to pay attention to us. It turns out that many times the opposite is true – the softer you speak the more your audience will work to pay attention to what you are saying.

Pitch and tone are related. Pitch has to do with the frequency that we speak at and we use tone to emphasize specific words. Raising your pitch when you are telling your audience about something that is exciting and lowering it when you want to convey a sense of an impending event will keep them listening to find out what is going to happen.

What All Of This Means For You

As speakers, our voice is the one tool that we have that can make the greatest impact on our audience. The problem is that most of us have never been trained to use it correctly.

All too often speakers focus too much on what they are going to be saying and don’t spend enough time worrying about how they are going to be saying it. When this happens, we can slide into speaking in a monotone and that’s never a good thing for us or for our audience.

Taking the time to learn how to introduce variety into our voice can pay rich dividends for our audience. Simple changes such as varying our volume and our rate of speaking can cause our audience to wake up and to start paying attention to what we’re saying.

Our voice is our greatest speaking tool. As speakers we have a responsibility to take the time to understand how to use it. Finding ways to use our voice to avoid speaking in a monotone and help get our message across to our audience even more effectively is what makes great speakers great!

- Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that it is possible to have too much variety in your voice when you give a speech?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

You think that you speak clearly, right? There are no marbles in your mouth or anything weird like that. You speak the same language as your audience. Then why does it seem to be so hard to get your audience to understand what you are trying to tell them? Could it be that there is some interference going on that you aren’t aware of?

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