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Andrew Bennett

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How vocal dynamism can refine your public speaking skills

Essential techniques to improve your voice when presenting to others
Public speaking

Have you sat through presentations or events where the speakers and presenters fail to engage their audience? Perhaps, whether online or in person, these speakers seem to lack personality, their voices flat, impersonal and reflecting their self-consciousness. You may sense a gap between what the speaker is saying and the way they are saying it.

There is a remedy to this situation and if you are responsible for learning and development in your company you will want to strengthen your brand reputation by encouraging the speaking skills of employees. 

We can release any physical tension with some gentle stretching like you may do when you get out of bed in the morning

Not only does helping your staff to upskill and find their voice in the speaking situations they find themselves daily improving the quality of work, but greater shared skills in communication promotes wellness in the workplace.

As a speaker and qualified public speaking teacher, I am going to share with you some ideas for improved vocal dynamism both in online and in-person speaking.

It's all in the preparation

The speaker needs to warm up physically and vocally on the day before going on stage but what is a good basic warm-up routine? The speaker must be sufficiently hydrated so that their voice can work freely as voices need humidity so plain, room temperature water is best, not too hot or too cold.

We can release any physical tension with some gentle stretching like you may do when you get out of bed in the morning.

Next it is time to centre our breathing. Think of breathing down and feeling expansion at the lowest rib. We are avoiding the high in the chest, panicky breathing which may come with fear.  

Then, we try some humming. Calmly hum any tune you like with loose lips and feel the resonant buzz, particularly over your cheekbones. This helps to move any sticky catarrh – the ‘frog in the throat’. Maybe use a few sips of water too. No coughing it away as that only irritates our throat further.

We want our voice to be lively and engaging so try a tongue twister or two: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could and would chuck wood? And to open some vocal range try: Rising, falling, swaying, sinking. Let your voice rise and flow with the words, almost like singing. Play with the exercise, exaggerate it a little as it is simply for warming up.

Finally, try out aloud the opening lines of your presentation so that you are settled and ready to deliver your message or information.

As a speaker, you need to be convinced by the ideas you are sharing so that this reflects in your vocal tone and body language to your audience

What happens during the presentation?

If you are in the context of in-person speaking in a room arrive early to try out the acoustic or microphone if one is provided. There is no need to shout to be heard, but we do need to speak clearly and with purpose

Public speaking in a large room requires a commitment to the words and ideas we are sharing. We are in a conversational style with our audience, but there is an extra level of energy required to make sure that our words can be distinctly heard by all. 

As a speaker, you need to be convinced by the ideas you are sharing so that this reflects in your vocal tone and body language to your audience. This will help the audience to feel that you are authentic, and they will want to listen to you. Be convinced to be convincing.

How do you decide the pace of speaking?

Pacing is crucial to the success of your presentation. Ideally, during your practice, you will have recorded or filmed your presentation a few times for review.

Are there moments where you can hear that you are rushing? Make a note to practice slowing down at that point. Is the presentation becoming dull and slow at any point? Look at adjusting your script using fewer words. More exciting vocabulary helps your vocal delivery to sound livelier and more positive.

What about issues with online delivery?

Delivering a presentation in an online context also requires thorough preparation. If using any kind of screen sharing it is important for the speaker to remain engaged physically and vocally with what they are saying. 

Don’t be tempted to let the slides do the talking for you. The screen share supports the message, but that message is shared by the speaker through their personality so audience connection needs to be maintained and the audience should be able to hear and see the speaker onscreen as much as possible.

How do you handle fact-heavy content?

I’ve come across speakers who are uncomfortable giving a very factual presentation. Sift the information and choose the most important facts (you can always give out a file with supplementary facts afterwards.) Keep your vocal delivery interesting by explaining why these facts are important. 

All these skills will help you build confidence and gain the attention of your audience and ultimately deliver better quality content

Care should be taken when we have a list of points to give. Try to cut out filler words like ‘and … and then … and’ which sounds boring. Each point on your list has a reason for being there – can you reflect that in your voice passing smoothly from point to point?

As a trainer, you can help staff to be more at ease in speaking contexts by organising sessions where groups present on topics relating to work. They should be encouraged to give each other constructive feedback respecting your positive workplace culture. You could also explore the possibility of creating a Corporate Toastmasters International Club at work. All these skills will help you build confidence and gain the attention of your audience and ultimately deliver better quality content.

Interested in this topic? Read Understanding fear of public speaking and how to get over it. 

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