Your Presentations Need More Vocal Expression
A lot of presentations are boring, aren’t they? I know I’ve sat through my fair share of really, REALLY bad presentations. The ones where the speaker droned on far too long, his voice so monotone and flat that I had a hard time staying awake, much less hold interest in what was being said.
This lack of vocal expression is a common problem, particularly for speakers who read from a prepared text or read their PowerPoint slides. How can anyone have really good vocal expression when they’re reading?
Well that’s a simple fix: Avoid reading from your notes, right?
If only it were that simple.
Of course my advice is to deliver a presentation in which you speak directly to the audience as opposed to reading from your notes, but if you don’t train your voice to be expressive, you’ll still sound flat (and boring). Think of your voice as an instrument: Keep it in tune and it will produce sounds that your audience will love listening to. Neglect it and it will squawk and sputter and make your audience wince.
Vocal Expression of Emotion
Vocal expression isn’t just about the tone of your voice; it combines a number of things. Vocal expression is about how you deliver your message with words and how you express those words. When have good vocal expression, you can convey emotion and character to your audience simply by your pitch, your pronunciation, and the speed at which you speak.
Your voice has its own personality, and it’s influenced by your natural pitch. It’s the reason some people sound powerful or articulate and others sound brash or squeaky. Some people have a wide pitch range, which allows them to be incredibly expressive. Others have a very small range, which leads them to be monotonous. When you understand your natural pitch range, you can work with it and use it to your advantage when you’re speaking.
Your tone is what you use to carry emotion in your voice. Think about how your tone changes when you are happy, angry, sad, or surprised. Tone plays a big role in vocal expression, and it’s limited only by your natural pitch.
As you prepare for you next speaking engagement consider:
- how you can use your natural pitch to your advantage by using a variety of notes within it
- where (in your presentation) you can use more expression by changing your tone to make what you’re saying more interesting and engaging for your audience
How To Improve Vocal Expression
Like every public speaking skill, the harder you work at your vocal expression and the more you practice, the better it will get.
Here are some things you can start doing today to improve your vocal expression:
- Practice breathing techniques. Breathe from deep within your diaphragm, not just from your lungs. Place your dominant hand on your stomach and notice where it moves in and out. That’s your diaphragm. When you breathe from it, your tone improves because you are taking in and expelling more oxygen.
- Practice speaking slower. It’s common for people to speak faster when they’re nervous. If you think you’re speaking slow enough, record yourself using a recorder or your phone and you’ll most likely see that you are speaking too quickly to be understood clearly.
- Practice taking a pause. This goes along with speaking slower. If you have a hard time slowing your speaking pace down, take deliberate pauses throughout your presentation and force yourself to slow down.
- Practice working your pitch range. You know how high and low your voice can go. How can you use that range to make your presentation for expressive and interesting?
Vocal Expression in Public Speaking
The most charismatic speakers are the ones who understand how and why vocal expression matters in public speaking. Not everyone has a wide pitch range, but that doesn’t limit how well of a public speaker you can be. Explore your voice and what it’s capable of, and work with it to make your presentations more dynamic and charismatic.