When it comes to presenting, exceptional vocal delivery is essential.
Based on feedback from over 1,000 audience members following 120 executive speeches, the listeners were twice as concerned with the speaker’s vocal quality as with the content.
You can do more with your voice than you might think. Here are four tips for elevating your vocal delivery:
Pitch is the placement of your voice on a musical scale—how high or low you speak—and it connects directly to our perception of the speaker’s passion. With speakers with a lot of pitch variety, we assume they care a lot about their presentation topic. When vocal pitch doesn’t vary much, we say a speaker is monotone, and that suggests he or she cares little about the topic. Your optimal pitch is what feels most comfortable and natural. From there, you can elevate your pitch to higher to convey excitement or energy or lower it for authority or seriousness.
Although 150 words per minute is comfortable, don’t maintain that rate throughout your presentation. Variety captures listeners’ attention and keeps them engaged. To build excitement or suspense, speak faster than normal. If you want something to really in, say it more slowly, and accentuate your words with longer pauses.
Very few speakers are too loud; most speakers struggle with not speaking loudly enough. You can enhance your volume through breath control. Dr. Christopher Chang says, “The lungs are what gives power to a voice.” Work on taking deep breaths and pushing sound out from full, strong lungs.
Unlike pitch and rate, you’ll want to maintain consistent volume—except to highlight certain parts of your message. Pick one essential sentence, and practice saying it at different volumes until you land on the ideal volume to convey its importance.
Issues arise when a speaker struggles with enunciation or pronunciation. Enunciation is the ability to form the distinct sounds in a word. The opposite of enunciation is mumbling or slurring sounds together. Think of the difference in saying “whassup” versus saying “what’s up.” Executive speech coach Jill Bremer recommends using the following exercises before speaking to warm up your lips, teeth and tongue.
Say each one a few times out loud to improve your enunciation:
- Bibbity-bobbity, Bibbity-bobbity, Bibbity-bobbity, boo.
- Tickety-tackety, Tickety-tackety, Tickety-tackety, too.
- Ah-ee, ah-ee, ah-ee.
- Lemon liniment.
- A noisy noise annoys an oyster.
- Round and round the rugged rock, the ragged rascal ran.
- Strange strategic statistics.
- Red leather, yellow leather.
- Jump Charley.
Pronunciation, on the other hand, is whether you say the word correctly. Modern technology provides a great resource on this front. Simply look up the word in any online dictionary, and click the speaker symbol to hear the word pronounced correctly.
A version of this post first appeared on the Ethos3 blog.