Perhaps you are spearheading a new initiative. Or a brilliant idea has occurred to you that you need to introduce to a key decision-maker. You might be presenting your logical argument for a pay increase. Or perhaps you are moving from instructional design into facilitating training. Whatever your business topic, you may be in the same boat as most of the tens of millions of us who went through school without being taught presentation skills— particularly those pertaining to your voice.
While there is nothing like being coached by a master presentation specialist (including feedback on your audio-video recordings), there are several vocal tips you can use to improve on your own.
There are five basic ingredients to using your voice. I call them the 5 P’s.
1. Passion: While the next 4 P’s are sounds made mechanically by your body, they will lack influence and believability if they are not fueled by your inner desire for gaining what you want. They will sound flat and they will be ineffective.
Stay in touch with your enthusiasm for whatever your subject matter is. Let that excitement or passion color every word you say. The positive energy of passion is contagious. If your material itself is worthwhile, then adding that extra energetic lift will help drive the benefits home.
2. Pitch: Pitch is the inflection, modulation, and up and down notes used when speaking. Purposefully using pitch is a key ingredient of expressing your interest during your presentation. When you sound authentically enthusiastic about what you are saying, it sounds more interesting to the receiver(s). That invites them to look for the interest factors for themselves, too. Monotone, flat tonality can have the opposite effect. Boring! So play with those ups and downs. Record yourself talking in a severe monotone and then record the same message using variety of pitches. You will notice a real difference, and so will your audience.
3. Pace: How slow or fast do you speak? If you get nervous when presenting your business case, you likely will speed up. While purposeful short bursts of words and phrases can add a bit of excitement, speaking too fast for too long wears out the listener who is trying to keep up with you. So generally, slow down. About 165 words per minute produces ease of listening.
A useful trick you can use is this: If you want to downplay any aspect of your presentation that may be true but displeasing to your audience, speed up your pace for the very short time it takes you to acknowledge the downside of something. The receiver’s perception is that it is no big deal. The reverse strategy is to slow down the pace and stretch out the key words or phrases you want to highlight as beneficial.
4. Pause: To pause is to insert silence. If you pause before something impactful, that silence sets up a little anticipation, and the next word or phrase will arrive more meaningfully. Pausing after you deliver a key message allows the recipient to take it in and process the importance for a moment.
Like all of the four mechanical P’s, varying your pauses will add interest for the audience and set your message apart in a distinct manner.
5. Projection: You can drive home a key point by speaking just a little bit louder. You also can draw people in by speaking with just a little less volume, like you are letting them in on something special (and you are). Again, variety will keep your audience more engaged.
With practice (the more the better), your improved vocality can make a big difference in how well you come across.
Manager-leader specialist Jim Hornickel is the director of Training & Development at Bold New Directions. Along with a B.A. in Management, Hornickel’s professional experience includes 25 years as a manager-leader in several industries; life, leadership, and relationship coaching; and authoring books “Negotiating Success” and “Managing From The Inside Out (16 Insights for Building Positive Relationships With Staff).” For more information, visit www.presentationtraininginstitute.com and www.boldnewdirections.com.