Over the last several weeks, I’ve attended a variety of engagements that included speakers. This past weekend, I had the pleasure of hearing 4 high school students speak on the topic of their choice, each speaker addressing how their topic relates to the Rotary 4-Way Test. A couple of weeks ago I attended a local TEDx event. And between those two events, I attended several local networking meetings, each featuring a speaker sharing their topic of expertise.
Getting to hear so many different speakers in such a wide variety of circumstances is one of the things that makes being a public speaking consultant so interesting. I get to sit in audiences and see how unique every speaker is—even when their topic is one that many other people speak about. Most speakers are hoping that their audience will be inspired to take some kind of action as a result of the content they’ve shared. When I’m sitting in an audience, I’m hoping for that too. And regardless of whether or not I’m working with the speaker, my virtual consultant’s thinking cap is on, and I’m paying attention to everything.
From my seat in the audience, I’m able to see things that work—and don’t work. I can tell when a speaker is confident, and when they aren’t. I can look around and gauge how interested the audience is. Are they laughing, crying, gasping, or taking notes when they should be? Are they texting instead of listening? When an audience isn’t engaged, it’s not always possible to narrow the cause down to one specific problem. BUT, I have noticed one thing that successful speakers tend to manage better across the board… the way they use their voice.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard speakers who I know have really great content to share speaking so fast you’d think they had a plane to catch. Maybe they were talking fast because they were nervous, or because they were afraid that if they didn’t speak fast they wouldn’t get through all their content. Either way, it can be a very frustrating experience for their audience.
Our voices are really versatile. We can shift our tone from high to low and from soft to LOUD. We can change our voice to play other characters, and we can intentionally slow our speech down or speed it up to emphasize a point. But instead of appreciating our voice as our #1 presentation tool, we tend to take it for granted or forget about it altogether.
This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned the idea of recording yourself delivering your presentation ahead of time (and it won’t be the last—because it’s that important). But it might be one of the first times I’ve pointed it out as a strategy for making sure that you’re managing your voice well. It’s so easy to do. Just grab your smartphone, turn on the video and do a verbal run thru. When you play it back, you’ll hear yourself speaking your words. You’ll be aware of the pace you set, and of your tone. This can be an enlightening and an empowering experience because if you don’t like what you hear, you can work with it.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of learning more about how to really use your voice in ways that will make your presentations better, the article below offers several voice tips. And, if you’re feeling a bit self-conscience or you’d like some feedback about your presentation…“Let’s talk!” (pun intended!)