We’ve all seen presenters whose voice quality sets the audience’s attention drifting. Their content might be strong, but they speak too softly, mumble or go too fast to be understood. Your voice is a critical aspect that can make your data come alive and your projects stand apart from the crowd. The following tips for voice help you convey your content with greater engagement and leadership presence.
“Anyone? ... Anyone?” Or…Style Basics
With today’s easily distracted audiences, style elements like gestures, eye interaction, and engaging voice help focus them back. The teacher in the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” famously depicts the deadening impact of a flat line voice, his monotone putting students to sleep. Vocal impact matters, of course, in face-to-face meetings. For virtual settings, it’s even more critical for keeping an audience engaged.
Simple Formula: Interested…and Interesting?
As a quick test while you rehearse your content, ask yourself two questions:
1) Does my voice sound like I’m interested and truly engaged in this content myself? And, 2) Is my voice interesting to listen to? If the answer is “no” on either count, your data will be in danger of sending your audience drifting. Be sure to vary your rate of speech, inflection, and tone to avoid flat-lining. To really test your impact, have a colleague watch you rehearse and provide feedback on your vocal quality with these questions. Another tip to check your impact is to record yourself and listen to whether you have a monotone voice and any variety in your rate of speech, tone, and inflection.
A More Deliberate, Confident Presence….Or, are you breathing? (And how?)
Too many presenters power their voice from the vocal chord or upper chest area, forcing the vocal chords to work harder to push out sound. Speech therapists working with teachers and professional singers recommend instead that you power your voice from the diaphragm. Do you breath from the upper chest area? Just before it’s time to present, start a pattern of breathing more deeply, from the belly or diaphragm area. The slower, deeper breaths will calm your central nervous system and reduce nerves. It will also support you projecting greater volume and resonance, at a more deliberate pace to convey more confidence.
Linguists identify another ‘no no’ when it comes to vocal impact known as “up talk.” This involves a speaker’s tone going up at the end of their sentences, making even a declarative statement sound like a question. While more common in women, men up talk as well. Unfortunately, it conveys uncertainty on the part of the presenter, undermining confidence. Instead, lower the tone at the end of a sentence for more vocal impact.
A Word about Diet
If you get congested before a talk, evaluate your dietary choices right before you speak. Avoid that cup of coffee with cream in it, a serving of yogurt, or a sandwich with cheese. Consuming dairy products often produces mucus, causing speakers to clear their throat with frequency, which is a possible distraction for the audience. Instead, hold off on dairy products before presenting.
Remember that presentation confidence comes not just from good content, but managing style elements like the voice. Test these strategies to up-level your speaking skills. We’re already envisioning you with vocal impact that keeps the audience listening.
For a quick, humorous look at what not to do with the voice in business talks, here is the referenced clip from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhiCFdWeQfA
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