Use The Power Of Song To Make A Better Speech

Speakers need to find ways to make their message more musical
Speakers need to find ways to make their message more musical
Image Credit: Jonas Bengtsson

What is currently your favorite song? We all like to listen to music and every once in a while there will be a song that comes along that will stick in our mind. We just can’t seem to shake it – it’s always there, playing in the background. As speakers I think that we’d all like it if we could use the importance of public speaking to allow our next audience to have the same experience when they listened to us speak. We’d like our message to get stuck in their head and keep on playing. In order to make this happen, perhaps we need to find a way to turn your next speech into more of a musical experience for your audience.

It All Starts With Rubato

Speakers have a number of different ways that we can connect with our audiences. We can use the speed at which we speak, the pitch of our voice, props, and our movements on stage. In a similar fashion, musicians can use many different techniques to communicate emotion, including controlling speed and adding extra notes to their music. One of the most powerful tools that a musician has is when a tune with a solid melody lodges itself in a listener’s memory. As speakers we understand this and we want our speeches to hold the same power.

In the world of music, rubato is a musical term referring to expressive and rhythmic freedom experienced by a musician by a slight speeding up and then slowing down of the tempo of a piece at the discretion of the musician. Each one of our speeches is made up of a series of points. Some of our points are more important than others. When we are making an important point, a savvy speaker might slow down at the end of their sentence in order to accent the message in its final words.

A good example of this would be to try saying this sentence a couple of different ways: “My brother was healthy throughout his teens, until illness stole his freedom.” After having read it once, try reading the second half of the sentence more slowly and see if it adds impact to what you are saying. Do you find that your tone is dropping as well? The emotion that your audience will feel is packed into the speed and tone of your words. On the other hand, you might speed up a phrase in order to distinguish it from a slower, more emotional line that follows.

Don’t Forget The Vibrato

As speakers we spend a lot of time trying to get our words right. We want our words to resonate with our audience and we want them to treasure what we have told them. In the end, when we are done speaking we want our words to still be playing in our audience’s minds. Musicians feel the same way. When a musician holds a note for a while during a song and you hear that vibration, don’t you feel the emotion behind the melody just a touch more?

Vibrato is a musical effect consisting of a regular, pulsating change of pitch. It is used to add expression to vocal and instrumental music. The good news for speakers is that we can do the same with words. What we need to do is to carefully modulating our voice when we need to. The best speakers use this technique when they are touching on a poignant moment in a story that they are telling. Their voice will tremble slightly during the telling. The result of this is that emotion is conveyed to the audience. What’s more, the sense that the moment that is being described is still very real for the speaker is also conveyed. The end result of all of this is that it increases the power of what you are saying by making it more personal.

Always Include The Appoggiatura

I think that we can all agree that every speech that we give has a main point to it. As speakers, once we have identified what we want to say, we can become focused on it. We’ll build our whole speech around it and in doing so we may end up leaving things out. While it’s important to stay focused on your message, sometimes you can add one or two choice “ornamental” words for emphasis. Understanding that we can do this is a key speaking skill.

In music, an appoggiatura is a musical ornament that consists of an added non-chord note in a melody that is resolved to the regular note of the chord. If we can find ways to add additional material to our speech without taking away from the main point that we are trying to communicate, then all of sudden our speech will have become that much richer. Such powerful additions can embellish the details of a story with more flavor. An example of this could be: “She towered over him the way a statue overlooks little scampering squirrels in the park.” As a speaker, you need to realize that you may not need to include “scampering” in order to express the size difference, but by doing so it connotes a sense of playfulness that can suggest related concepts.

What All Of This Means For You

As speakers we use words to reach out and connect with our audience so that we can share the benefits of public speaking. We are always looking for ways that we can do this better. It turns out that in the world of music, musicians are trying to do the same things that we are. If speakers take the time to study how musicians go about accomplishing their goals, we can learn things that we can incorporate into our next speech.

In music, rubato refers to when a musician speeds up or slows down their music. As speakers, we also have the ability to speed up or slow down our speech in order to make a point. Vibrato occurs when a musician uses a pulsating change of pitch. Speakers have the ability to make changes to our pitch in order to add emotion to a key point in a story that we are telling. Finally, in music appoggiatura is a musical ornament that consists of an added non-chord note in a melody that is resolved to the regular note of the chord. In a similar fashion speakers can add additional material to a speech that is not directly related to their main point in order to create a richer speech.

As we strive to become better speakers, we need to understand that there are other people who are trying to do the same thing that we are. They want to have an audience that they can connect with and have them remember them long after their event is over. Musicians and speakers have a great deal in common. If we can take the time to study how they connect with their audience, then we can become better speakers.

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

Question For You: Is there anything that a musician does that a speaker should not do?

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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 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

What do you think that it takes in order to be a good speaker? If you are like most people, you would say that having an outgoing personality is one of the key factors that every good speaker needs to have. What’s interesting about this is that you’d be wrong. A lot of people are not outgoing, in fact they may be introverted. However, introverts can become great speakers also. They just have to discover what makes an introvert a good speaker.