I love training people on the art of public speaking and helping them achieve their dream of becoming a keynote speaker. There’s nothing better than seeing people transform in their speaking career.
And one of the first questions I ask is, ‘Have you ever thought about how your voice sounds?’.
For most people, you don’t. Sure, you may occasionally say, ‘I have a cold and sound terrible’, but that’s probably the extent to which you’ve paid close attention.
But if you want to become a public speaker (and one who gets paid), you need to not only nail your content but be aware of your vocal presentation. Whether you’re a keynote speaker at an event, speaking at a meeting, or being interviewed on a podcast or webinar, your voice is critical.
Think back to school.
Did you have classes where you just wanted to fall asleep? You weren’t interested in the content, and the teacher’s voice droned on and on and on. The end of the day on Friday’s was always the worst!
And that’s why your voice is vital when you’re captivating your audience.
You may have listened to my podcasts about how to become a better speaker. If you haven’t, I highly recommend you tune in.
You need to capture your audience’s attention, which is ultimately a combination of your voice and presentation skills.
As with all marketing, you must first know your audience. The only way you’ll get them listening is by showing straight up that you’re like them. Empathise with them. Know their problems. And show what you did to solve the issue you had that they’re now facing.
That’s the start of gaining trust.
Telling stories, sharing jokes and being relatable are all key components in a presenters toolbox.
And once you’ve nailed your content, you need to focus on your voice and perfect this.
I call it the 5 P’s:
When you start vocal training to become a better speaker, the first thing to work on is your pace – how fast (or slow) you speak. Many people start out gibbering at a million miles an hour due to nerves running wild.
And that’s fine. It’s a bit like people playing podcasts on double speed to get through them!
But after a while, your audience will tune out if your pace is off-kilter. And I’m not saying that you need to find one speed that you stick with. It’s all about your presentation!
You may find that your pace varies as you continue through your speech and the story you’re telling.
Here’s what I find.
I walk out onto the stage, and I’m full of life – ‘Hey everyone, I’m super excited to be here and talking about X, Y, Z today with you’. My pace is up, and I’m getting the audience engaged from the start. I ask questions like, ‘Who’s here to build a bolder brand today? Give me a yes’. I’m full of energy and passion.
When I continue and start sharing a story of inspiration, my pace will slow down to suit. Storytelling is about creating imagery in people’s minds, so you want to be a little slower softer.
Tip: Higher and faster paces are used for exciting your audience and pushing them to take action. Softer and slower paces are for drawing in your audience and making them listen.
Your pitch is how you use your voice to express emotion and is often defined as the highness or lowness of your voice. It’s something that all trained actors learn, and it’s something that polished public speakers have perfected over the years.
And I guarantee pitch isn’t something you’ve thought about much or even taken the time to define!
But I bet you know famous movie lines like these:
‘I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!’ (The Wizard of Oz) or ‘You can’t handle the truth!’ (A few good men).
Go on, say them out loud. Notice how your voice goes up and down? That’s pitch.
It’s the way you say speak to portray your message, and you can change it up and down to suit the situation.
For example, you may be using a lower pitch to tell a story, and when you reach the climax, your pitch changes higher to signal the excitement that happens.
Tip: You’ll get used to changing your pitch, but with practice, you will discover your natural pitch and find your own variances that comfortably fit in with your presentation style.
The power in your voice refers to how loud or soft you speak (including a whisper). And believe it or not, but everyone has a powerful voice if they need one!
You may think, ‘I’m an introvert and so quietly spoken that my voice isn’t powerful’. But let me tell you, some of my biggest idols are introverts and are the best public speakers you’ll find.
It’s about finding your inner power and learning how to project your voice with confidence.
When you add volume and energy (power), your voice boosts your audience’s confidence and helps them understand what you’re saying. However, if you’re standing up on stage, mumbling your words out, no one will follow along.
But, you don’t want to stand up and yell at your audience – that’s not cool!
To powerfully project your voice, you need to learn to use your diaphragm. And that comes with specialised speaker training!
Tip: Learning breathing techniques is one of the best ways to master your vocal power. If you’re nervous and hold your breath, your voice will be shaky. However, if you take a deep breath in, it helps you calm nerves and gives you oxygen to enhance your voice.
When you’re presenting to an audience, it’s ok to stop and take a breath. To pause. To be comfortable with silence.
If you’re nervous about being a presenter, you’ll find that you don’t take the time to pause, your blood pressure rises, and you start panicking, unable to think of your next line.
So, if you calm yourself down and think about what it is you want to say, then you say it well.
Taking a pause not only allows you to take a moment but lets the point you’ve just made sink into the minds of your audience. I don’t mean that you should stop for dramatic effect at the end of every sentence, but taking a break now and then will make your presentation better.
When you pause, you’re gaining power. You show the audience you’re comfortable on stage and have time to spend with them. Pausing helps your words to hang in the air and helps your audience remember those words.
So pause now and then, take a deep breath and regain your thoughts.
Tip: Ums and ahs are not space fillers but something many people do when they have a moment of silence. Speaker coaching helps you become aware of this, and you’ll learn to be comfortable with silence and not feel the need to fill it.
The final factor in becoming a better public speaker is learning how to polish your tone. And you’ll find that your tone has a lot to do with your audience. What tone of voice do they use?
For example, if you’re presenting to a group of high-level executives, you’re not likely to be using slang. You’ll speak at their level, posed and professional.
When you want to be taken seriously as a public speaker, you need to perfect your voice. Things like your voice raising at the end of every sentence, talking in a little cutesy voice or mimicking the husky tones popular on reality TV shows won’t be well received.
You need to think of being ‘polished’.
Yes, it’s a bit old school – like when people learnt how to pronounciate words with marbles in their mouths – but it works if you want to be a better speaker.
So really work on polishing your tone and style and make sure it’s suitable for your audience.
Tip: For OH&S sake, please don’t try the marbles. Instead, slow down your speech, breathe, open your mouth and project your voice. It all takes practice!
I’m passionate about sharing my insights into the speaking world, and I love helping others become better speakers.
If you’d like to get clearer on what you want to be known for and how you can start your speaker journey, download your free ‘Building a Bold Speaker Brand Workbook‘.
And if you’d like more info on speaking and personal branding, you’ll love these podcasts:
In this video masterclass, I’ll share the three key areas you need to focus on to scale your business and build a bold brand so that you attract the client that want what you have!
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