The Art of Change Skills for Life

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When You Speak, How Do You Sound To Others?

February 1, 2009 Persuasion 2

We’re exploring those ways available to you to make your presentations sing and your presence zing when practicing the art of persuasion with groups.   And in this post, I’m going to tell you about two keys to using your voice wisely:  Projection and variety.

One of my communication mentors talked to me early on in my speaking career about owning the room.  Your voice is the carrier signal that delivers your words and message, and how you send that signal determines your ability to fill the space around you as if it belongs to you.  Projection means that you speak loudly enough and clearly enough that the person farthest away from you can hear what you’re saying.  When talking to a large group, there will probably be a sound system in use that has speakers in the back of the room.  Nevertheless, speaking to the people in back is a great way to keep connected volume wise to everyone in the room.

If you’re unsure about the volume, test it before giving your presentation.  And if you really want to have some fun, recite poetry, or Shakespeare, and ask someone to move about the back of the room to let you know if they can hear you.  I’m fond of doing my sound checks with Puck’s closing speech from Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I’ve gotten many a positive response to it from banquet staff and early arrivals.

Variety plays a role in the impact that the sound of your voice has on a group.  I’m sure you’ve had the experience of listening to someone talk in a monotone.  It’s sleep inducing!  Instead, think of your voice as having three domains:  High, medium and low.  Mix and match these domains as you talk, and you’ll find that your words connect more powerfully with people.  Likewise, your pace has three speeds.  Fast, medium and slow.

The slowest you can go is called a pause. And the most powerful pause is the ‘meaningful’ pause.  That’s where you stop, even in the middle of a sentence, before delivering the main point.  YOu can add the meaningful look to the meaningful pause, by stopping, looking a few people in the eyes, and then saying that main point.

Projection adds power and variety  is the spice of life when speaking to a group.   Now, what spicy comments do you have for me?  I appreciate your comments, I surely do!

Be well,

Rick

2 Responses

  1. Chris Witt says:

    Rick,

    I couldn’t agree with you more about volume and variety. And I find that the two subjects are related.

    Some people always talk in a monotone, whether they’re talking one on one or addressing a group. I don’t know what to do with them. I usually think they need to be goosed, but I’m not the type of person to do it. In my kinder moments I imagine that fear is restraining them, tamping down their energy.

    When I work with people who aren’t monotonous in daily life but whose voices settled into a monotone the moment they start giving a speech, I ask them to speak louder. I don’t know why, but it seems that increasing their volume automatically increases their energy, which in turn adds variety to their voice.

    Have you noticed that? Or do you have some other technique that works?

    • @Chris Witt,
      Thanks for the comment!

      It’s true, asking people to speak up gives them a bit of an internal goose to have more variety in how they speak. And when presenting, speaking louder is almost always a sure bet, because owning the room means filling it with your voice.

      However, there’s another method you might try. It has to do with high, medium and low pitch. Have people practice reading a sensory-language rich bit of text out loud.

      When they come across a visual word, have them say the containing phrase by moving their voice up in register. “I looked out the window and saw the mountains high.”

      When speaking feeling words, have them move their voice down to the bottom of their vocal range (everyone has range, but may not be used to using it!) “The feeling swept over me, rippled through my body, from head to toe. My excitement overflowed.”

      Words having to do with sound (hear, speak, say, talk, -sound effects, like the birds tweeing, sirens singing etc.-) in the middle of their registry. “I thought to myself that this is what we say when called to account. We answer with conviction. We speak plainly.”

      After a few times of practicing that sensory rich bit of text, you have them simply read the text without concern for the sensory bits, and you’ll notice their voices have picked up some flexibility.

      As to why people talk in a monotone…God only knows! But it could be fun trying to make up answers to explain it, so I welcome all commenters who want to take a shot at it. Question to my readers (c’mon, don’t be shy, guess! Any answer is a good one!) Why do some people talk in a monotone? I hope I get a few takers!

      best wishes,
      Rick

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