Guest post by Florian Bay – Founder & Lead Trainer – Speak to Lead!
Powerful public speaking is made-up of well-structured content delivered in a strong and confident manner. Eye contact and body language are key elements of a strong delivery. However, the one that can make the difference between a weak speech and a strong one is the speaker’s voice.
Your voice is a muscle
One thing that singers, musicians and actors learn in drama school is the importance of taking care of their voice in order to maximise their performance. Despite this, vocal training is often overlooked by public speakers and this dulls their impact on potential audiences. Proper vocal support begins with proper breathing and proper posture. When you speak, stand upright with your chest thrust slightly forward and your shoulders slightly backwards. To relax yourself, you can put your hand on your tummy and do 5 seconds sequences of inhaling, holding your breath and exhaling. Voice is all about vibration and resonance so before you speak consider doing some resonance exercises with your mouth and voice box. These exercises tend to feel quite nice, will relax you further and most importantly will help you better project your voice.
Projecting your voice is important because it is a powerful musical instrument that will support your words and sentences when played well. There are four may ways in which you can play it, the 4Ps of pace, pitch, power and pause.
Everybody has a default pace of speaking, which can sometimes be of up to 150 words or even 180 words per minute. When speaking in public it is advisable to aim for a pace of 120 words per minute. However, this pace can vary slightly during a speech or presentation. For example, if portraying dialogue or characters. Varying your vocal pitch is very useful if your speech incorporates storytelling elements; but can additionally be used to draw the audience’s attention on a particular point.
Having a powerful voice can be a double-edged sword depending on the situation. When seeking to persuade or inspire, it can enhance your message and project authority and conviction. But it can also lack congruence if what you are saying is emotional or requires a softer voice tone. Still, varying the power of your voice is an excellent way to turn a good speech into a great speech. Especially if you want to emphasise a single keyword within a sentence. This is also where pauses can come in very handy to support a message. A short pause within a sentence before introducing a keyword can emphasise it further. A longer pause after a sentence or dialogue can build-up suspense and anticipation of what might come next. Pauses can be very effective in technical speeches and presentations too and can enhance informative speeches. Why? Because they provide time for the audience to think about what you’ve just said. Well placed pauses will enhance the understanding of your speech and message.
Clarity is the clincher
While using the 4Ps well, can enhance the clarity of your voice. They are not necessarily the be end and end all. A couple of other factors influence clarity, especially your pronunciation and your accent. The best way to master hard to pronounce words and sentences is via reading them aloud and repeating them. Never be afraid of asking someone’s help I this matter, especially if you have to sell a product or service with a difficult to pronounce name. Almost everybody has an accent but some accents can impact clarity of speaking, especially in front of an audience. My native language is French and I still to this day sometimes struggles with pronouncing words like “history” or “idea” which can have a negative impact when I speak. There is nothing wrong with reducing one’s accent to pronounce words and sentences more clearly. Crisp and clear pronunciation can be the difference between an average presentation and a strong impactful presentation. Especially in competitive fields.