Do your presentations sound boring even if you’re an expert “Toast Masters” speaker? One of the most common requests from my clients is how to avoid a monotone and spice-up your vocal sound. So how do you stop your lifelong tone of boring expression to become something new?
Here are five key strategies to add variety to your voice.
#1. Key: Extend your pitch range so you can add inflection to your voice.
Record your voice so you can see the sound wave patterns. If you notice that they are almost always at the same level, then that’s a good test result that you have a monotone delivery. You can add variety by speaking in a mixture of higher pitch tones, mid tones, and low tones.
First, do some warm-up exercises to expand your pitch range. For example, repeat the sound “aaah” going from mid to the highest level you can reach. Continue repeating “aaah” from mid to the lowest level. Next, go from low to mid to high and down again. Finally, mix it up by going high, low, and mid, or any other combination. Hum your favorite tune in a variety of pitch levels.
Once you have discovered your available pitch range, apply it to your sentences or keywords, such as repeating “Come for a walk Waldo.” in at least four different tones, even singing it. Now record your sentences and notice how the sound waves give you a varied pattern of high and low tones, instead of being stuck in only one sound level.
#2. Key: Match specific words to help listeners visualize your message.
Choose specific words or phrases in your content to apply your new varied pitch levels. It could be adjectives or verbs that your listeners need to visualize explicitly by adding your pitch nuance. Your goal is to become more expressive like a child might explain something to a friend. Paint the picture with stress on your words by raising or lowering your pitch suddenly or speaking more softly or loudly, and so on.
#3. Alter your pace to create interest and climax.
Energetic animation comes naturally from your pace and your pitch. Normally you speak at a slower rate than you do if reading aloud. When your rate of speaking is the same rhythm throughout then your speech becomes uninteresting.
To achieve variety effectively, some sentences or phrases are spoken slowly, and some are sped up. Speaking too rapidly results in indistinct sounds and jarring rhythm; and you’ll appear tense or nervous. Avoid speaking too slowly as you’ll appear dull. Practice telling a story, such as “The Three Bears” with genuine animation and enthusiasm to a group of children simply by using your pace, pitch, and inflection.
#4. Key: Use a pause as emphasis to draw your audience into anticipation of what’s next.
A pause inserted just before your climax in your story creates increased anticipation and attracts more attentiveness from your listeners. Practice saying aloud this sentence four times: “Bob arrive late last night.” Each time you say it, insert a pause after a different word in the sentence. The message changes meaning not only with the pause; but also, with your inflection or pitch nuance on the sentence.
#5. Key: Project your voice at different levels to create emotion and passion in your story or message.
Volume of speaking greatly affects your speech delivery. The key here is not to shout from your throat if you want to be loud. Instead, project your voice using your diaphragmatic breathing method so the sound reaches the farthest distance to your listeners. Whispering must also be projected so all can hear the softer tone. Choose the best part of your content where a whisper or a louder sound will add to painting the picture of your presentation. Become immersed passionately in the moment of your story to convey genuine emotion to your audience.
Communicate your content to a person or group to gain feedback from sensing your listeners’ interest, attentiveness, and comprehension. When you balance these five key strategies together with specific exercises; then, you are on the road to vitalizing your sound. Your voice will be more energized and give you a drama edge to your next speech.
Brenda C Smith, Speech and Drama Coach, is the Founder of Voice Power Training Services and has taught and coached drama students, professional actors, and business clients from high school level to College level. Her book “Breathe… Just Steps to Breathtaking Speeches: 7-Steps to Putting Your Best Voice Forward” captures an all-inclusive easy system on how to improve the sound of your voice and delivery method to become a calm, confident, and passionate speaker.