Chapter 4: Stand and Deliver
Sounding off about Verbal Communication
Your verbal communication skills are of particular importance when you're delivering a speech.
The voice has several elements that you can vary as a means to enhance your speech, they include volume, pitch, tone, and rate.
As a good speaker, it's your responsibility to familiarize yourself with these areas so you can manipulate them for greatest effectiveness.
- Volume: This determines how loudly your voice is projected throughout your presentation space. You should be loud enough so that everyone in the room can hear you.
At the same time, you shouldn't sound as if you're shouting.
To determine the appropriate volume and whether or not you'll need a microphone, consider the size of the room and the amount of people that will be filling the space.
If possible, try to rehearse your speech in your actual presentation or in a room like it.
You should also consider altering your voice according to your speech. As long as you don't overdo it, you can speak in a lower tone to draw the audience in or raise your voice to underscore a particular point.
Similarly, consider whispering when talking about a secret or private conversation and pump up the volume as you speak about a challenge or victory. Sprinkling variety in your volume adds spice.
- Pitch: The high or low notes you produce when you speak is referred to as pitch.
Your speech is your own personal music and you have your own
natural register and that's the notes on the musical scale that you speak most comfortably.
Generally, most people have a range of eight notes. In conversation, you raise your voice at the conclusion of a question and lower your voice at the end of statement.
For your speech, you don't want to speak in monotone or in one pitch because you'll be considered boring and your audience with tune you out.
At the same time, using excessive pitch (speaking too high or too low) could be distracting.
The key here is to ensure your pitch varies enough to maintain your audiences' attention but only using those notes that are pleasing to the ear.
- Tone: It's not what you say, it's the way you say it. Your tone encompasses all of the elements that put a particular spin on your speech.
You can have a tone that's positive, negative, sarcastic, pessimistic, hopeful, joyous, fearful, panicked, confident, convincing, or inviting.
Research shows that an audience can better relate to positive tones than negative ones. They also prefer upbeat or positive speeches over negative ones.
As you determine your tone, strike a balance by selecting the tone that feels most natural to you, the listener's expectations, and the content.
For example, a political speech should be more forceful and demanding than a speech on a child's daycare facility which should probably be pleasant and upbeat.
- Pace: The rate or pace is the speed that your words are spoken. People generally speak at a rate at 115 words per minute.
A fast pace indicates a sense of urgency or may seem pushy, jittery, or confusing. A slow speech may be comforting or relaxing but can also be boring. As with other elements in your speech, varying is key.
During an exciting part of your speech, speed up to draw attention to the point you're trying to make. You may also want to slowdown when you're delivering a story.
Slowdown if you have a strong dialect or accent so people understand you.
Pauses also influence the pace. A pause between words or phrases adds emphasis. You can use pauses to highlight certain points, regulate your pace (and prevent you from speaking too quickly), and add dramatic effect.