Public Speaking: Voice
You want to sound confident when you give a speech. Your voice is an important part of who you are and how others perceive you. It is also the conductor of your message. Therefore, try to use your voice to your advantage: improve the way you transfer your message to the audience by following the tips given in this section.
While you might be keen to fill every part of your speech with interesting words, silence is powerful. Pauses enhance the quality of your speech. They emphasise its key elements, adjust its rhythm, or let information sink in. For example, you can pause for a few seconds after delivering an important passage of your speech. That will allow the audience to digest the information you just provided and realise its importance. Plan your pauses by reading your speech out loud to yourself or rehearse it in front of family members or friends.
Rhythm and Volume
Nerves can clearly be heard in your voice. Because of your nerves, you might speak faster and/or softer. However, if you speak slowly and/or more loudly the audience will not only be able to understand you better, but you will also show more confidence and authority. Click here for our article on how to improve ethos.
While you want to maintain a stable rhythm and/or volume throughout your speech, alternating between a slower and faster pace, as well as playing around with the volume from time to time can be beneficial. By implementing such tactics, you will gain the advantage of keeping the focus of the audience, as they wonder why you are varying your pace and/or volume, emphasising your message (when appropriate) or making your narrative more interesting. If you are, for example, describing a chaotic situation, it might make sense to accelerate the rhythm of your words and speak even more loudly.
Clarity and Enunciation
So you have an interesting message to transfer to the audience, but you want to make sure you are clearly heard? You should spend some time considering your clarity and enunciation. We are not preoccupied with your accent here- for we all have one and should embrace it. We want to make sure your instrument (your voice) is tuned to provide the best sound.
Speaking clearly will show that you feel confident about your message. It will also make sure your efforts do not go to waste in case someone is unsure about what you have just said. But how can you achieve this? You can try the following exercise. Read your speech out loud, dramatically emphasising every letter. If possible, do it also in front of a mirror. Watch how you articulate every word. Do it a few times and you should notice a difference when returning to your natural enunciation.
Emotion and Expression
Your voice narrates your story. Let your voice guide the audience through the different emotions your story might carry. Emotions will make your message more rich and relatable. Click here for our facial expressions article. You can also vary your tone according to the emotion you are trying to convey. In general, show enthusiasm so others can also feel enthusiastic about your speech.
Voice also makes identity. Your voice is part of how we express ourselves as human beings. As a delegate, your voice can be key in showing who you are and what you want to achieve.
Focus on your breath for a few seconds. When you breathe in, what do you see expanding, your chest or your diaphragm? Daily life stress together with other factors might have made you used to expanding your chest when breathing in. However, if you engage your diaphragm, you will be able to breathe in more air. Check this YouTube video from Harvard Vanguard Doctor Linda Bolle to learn the practice of diaphragmatic breathing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vXlTkrNxyw). Singers use this technique in order to achieve more clarity. You can also do so during your speech to improve the quality of your voice. Other benefits of this technique include being able to take full, deep breaths and feel immediately more relaxed.