Your voice as a speaker is your instrument. It is your connection between you and your audience. Your voice is your communication link and that is why it is extremely important.
A good speaking voice has several characteristics:
Let’s dive into each aspect of vocal variety:
Volume is being able to control how loud and soft you speak. If you speak too softly and your audience can’t hear you, they will not buy from you. They will give up and stop listening. It is better to boost your volume because people with good hearing can adjust to fit yours. This is not the case with people who are hearing challenged, they cannot turn up the volume. That does not mean to sound like you are persistently screaming.
One day, I was watching a seminar online and my husband walks in and asked, “Who’s yelling. I’ve been hearing someone yelling for three days!” Vocal variety means to vary your volume and find a volume that works for everyone. Also, you can use vocal variety to keep your audience’s attention. You can speak louder to emphasize a point or speak softer to show emotion. For example, if you are conveying anger, you increase your volume. If you are sharing a secret, you lower your volume. Remember too much screaming or whispering will get in the way of people hearing your message. Practice the right volume for the right speech, audience, and environment.
When you are speaking, look at your audience as you change your volume. If you are too loud their faces and bodies will grimace with pain. If you are too soft your audience will lean in or move their heads to hear you. Then make the appropriate volume adjustments to meet your audience’s needs.
The pitch of your voice is how high or low it sounds on a musical scale. Your voice must vary in pitch just like it should vary in volume. A real high pitch conveys excitement, and a low pitch conveys seriousness. Often, women speak in a higher pitch than men. Women, pay attention to your pitch and avoid speaking too high and screechy because it can discredit you. All speakers need to be aware of their pitch and vary it. Too much of the same pitch can cause your audience to stop listening.
The rate at which you speak is the number of words you speak per minute. On average we speak about 125-160 words per minute. If a speaker speaks too fast on stage, the audience will not be able to keep up and may give up. Many speakers speak fast when they get excited or feel rushed. However, be mindful and if you are in this habit of fast talking, practice slowing down. If you speak too slow, you can lose your audience’s interest just as quickly as speaking too fast. When you rehearse your speech, practice slowing down or speeding up your rate to add the vocal variety you desire and that will keep the attention of your audience.
The quality of a voice should be friendly, natural, confident, and pleasant to your audience’s ears. To make sure the quality of your voice is right, listen to yourself on a recording. Most people do not like the sound of their own voice. However, it is important to record and listen to the way you sound, the words, the inflections. If you detect something is off in your voice, there are voice exercises that you can do that will deepen the sound of your voice and enhance the quality. In a previous blog on how to build your speaking muscle, I shared some tongue twister exercises that can help too. Another approach to create better vocal quality is to breathe properly. Breathing exercises will help solve some of the voice quality weakness and help you improve the quality of your voice by 60%. Practice deep breathing from your diaphragm. Another helpful hint is to always stand up when you speak, even when speaking in the virtual world. This will open the diaphragm and make it easier to breathe and speak.
When you are listening to yourself on a recording, ask yourself, does your voice sound:
- harsh or breathy (like Marilyn Monroe)
- shrill high pitched where it could break glass, or
- nasal that makes people cringe.
Whatever your God given voice is, you can change it and deepen the quality through breathing and speaking exercises. Also, you can improve it by relaxing and eliminating tension from your voice. You can use meditation to relax and release tension.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you practice your volume, pitch, rate, and quality of your voice so your audience has an enjoyable experience throughout your presentation.
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