A strong message deserves a powerful delivery.
I would say that most speakers focus more intently on WHAT they’re going to say, and they spend less time practicing HOW they’re going to say it.
And in my experience (and science agrees), this is a bit of a misconception.
The way you deliver the message can make or break your talk. You cannot be a great leader without being a great speaker. It’s a huge factor in our audience’s perception of what we say, including:
As a Speech Scientist, there’s a fascinating body of research about how you can use your voice to be perceived as powerful.
In this blog, I’ll provide you with 7 ways to use your voice that will make your landmark speech more influential.
Here are the categories we will cover:
According to studies, a person with a lower pitch is associated with more confidence and competence. He or she will be trusted more.
This is why it’s important to use your entire body when you speak. Think of your body as the resonating chamber of your voice. Speak from your chest and use your entire body. Think of your body as the resonating chamber of your voice.
To do so, you want to keep your chest relaxed and calm. Relaxed breathing will help with this.
Have you ever heard someone deliver a monotone speech? It makes a 15-minute speech drag on for what seems like an hour. When you’re virtual, people are even more likely to tune out. It makes people check their phones, mute their videos, or desperately want to leave the room.
To use modulation, let your voice dance. Use your vocal range to keep your speech engaging. Think of your voice as going up and down a lot of stairs!
Consistently changing the flow of your voice is key to keeping your audience engaged.
Not being able to hear a speaker is one of the main things that ruin a speech. Your message is important, so give it space and don’t mumble away.
Your speaking volume is a crucial part of your performance, and studies show that speakers who project their voice are perceived as more powerful and influential. So please remember this:
NEVER RELY ON THE MICROPHONE.
The microphone will emphasize what’s already there. If you mumble, the microphone will have you mumbling loudly.
Make sure you aren’t yelling. Focus on sending your voice to the back of the room. If you’re on video, imagine you are speaking to someone who’s sitting 10 - 20 feet away.
Your audience will appreciate your volume, and there’s no greater feeling than hearing your voice fill up a room.
When we are listening to someone, we are only able to memorize 8-12 words of spoken language at a time.
So, speaking in short sentences will help hold your audience to absorb what you’re saying while holding their attention span.
If this feels unnatural at first, try putting slashes in between each individual thought in your written script. The slashes are there to remind you to take a pause in between thoughts.
Then, practice your speech by speaking extremely slowly. Once you’ve practiced with an exaggerated slowness, you can pick up the tempo slightly to arrive at your final speed.
It’s time to talk about…
… pausing during a speech.
People often don’t pause during a speech because it feels awkward to stand in silence.
It actually does the opposite. Pauses give you time to think. Meanwhile, the audience can digest what you’ve said.
(And if you’re feeling nervous, a pause can recenter you and allow you to take a full breath.)
But while pausing, avoid using filler words.
Using too many words like “ummm,” “uhh,” and “huh,” can make the audience feel disconnected from your speech. These are called “disfluencies.”.
Once in a while, a disfluency is fine. Even Steve Jobs let them slip occasionally! But a good rule of thumb is “The fewer disfluencies you use, the more enjoyably you are to listen to and the more powerful you are perceived to be.”
Speech speed. Say that 3 times fast! (Actually, this is a good tongue twister to warm up your muscles before a speech!)
If you speak too fast, you aren’t giving the words the space they deserve and people will be lost. Your message is powerful, so give each word the space it deserves.
On the other hand, speaking too slowly will bore people.
You want to find the sweet spot.
It is normal that nerves and adrenaline will kick in before delivering a speech. Oftentimes, this makes the delivery quicker.
If you realize, in the middle of your speech, that you’re speaking too fast, take a breath and imagine you’re speaking in slow motion. Center yourself. Feel grounded, relax, and let the words dance out naturally.
When something is important in our lives, we put emphasis on it.
The same goes for giving your speech. You want to emphasize certain words, depending on how you want your audience to perceive an idea.
Here’s an example:
Emphasizing different words gives this sentence slightly different meanings.
Alternately, don’t repeat a word for emphasis.
Say “It is VERY important.” instead of “It is very, very important.”
Studies have shown that repeating words makes an audience perceive you as childish, rather than powerful. Instead of repeating words for emphasis, simply use your tone of voice to stress their importance.
Use your voice to make your speech stand out
You have everything it takes to give a powerful speech.
Using these simple voice techniques will elevate your speaking to the next level.
Which technique are you most excited to practice? Leave a comment below and let me know!