The way you use your voice is one of the absolute most important aspects of speaking in public. This can easily change the way your audience sees you, whether for the better or for the worse. Today, I’m going to talk about how to use your voice well so that you can improve your speech-giving skills.
So, how do you use your voice effectively in a presentation? Watch your volume, and be mindful of your intonation. Speak clearly at all times when you are giving a speech. Place emphasis on the right words. Make sure you pace yourself accordingly. Pause when appropriate.
If all of this sounds a little intimidating to you, don’t worry about it. In this article, I’m going to give you some of the best professional tips to make sure you are using your voice to maximize your potential. And when you are done reading, hopefully, you will feel more confident to put some of these tips into practice during your next presentation.
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How to Use Your Voice Effectively in a Presentation
Even just the slightest change in your voice can change the entire meaning of a sentence. And you may not be a master at the skills required to make effective use of your voice. That is okay! Nobody is born a master of anything. That is why I’m going to walk you through developing some of the skills you need to use your voice properly during a presentation.
So, What is the Big Deal About Volume?
How would you feel if you were sitting in the audience listening to a speech, and the speaker was shouting at you the whole time? This would be very off-putting, and almost always seen as being aggressive. You might feel like leaving the presentation early to avoid being yelled at any more!
Or what if the speaker was so quiet that you could barely hear a word they had to say? Eventually, you might lose interest and zone out. You’ll find yourself reaching for your phone, looking for a distraction until the whispering speaker was done.
Maintaining the proper volume is crucial. But how do you know exactly what volume is right? The answer to that question: you want to be loud enough for everyone to hear you, but not too loud that you make your audience uncomfortable.
First, notice what the size of your crowd is. If you have a larger audience spread out over a wider area, you might need to talk a little louder.
However, if you have a microphone, you will have a much easier time regulating your volume. This can help you from not straining your voice in order to be heard.
It is also okay to raise and soften your voice at different points throughout your presentation to draw attention to certain words or phrases.
For example, you may raise your voice for a word to place emphasis on it, or you may whisper something in order to make a point. Just make sure you are not being excessively loud or quiet the entire time. Moderation is the key!
Intonation, Intonation, Intonation!
Many students tell me that they know they should use proper intonation, but that they are also not sure of exactly what that word means. Simply put, intonation means how you say something. And how you say something is just as important as what you are saying.
Proper intonation is important to convey emotion. Your voice should fluctuate naturally because speaking in a monotone variation will do nothing but bore your audience.
The next time you have a one-on-one conversation, think about how you already use intonation. Do you say every sentence, word, syllable in the same way? With the same volume? Or by placing the same emphasis on every word? Chances are, your answer to that is no; that would be the correct answer.
Don’t force it, though. Try to practice giving a speech as naturally as you would explain something to a friend.
Let your words flow. After all, it is better to sound natural and flowing than to sound like you are trying to be a robot onstage!
Above Everything Else, Speak Clearly
Let me make it simple for you: if you are not speaking clearly, your audience will not be receiving the message that you are trying to convey. After all, what are you going to get out of listening to a speech where you can’t understand what words the person onstage is even saying?
Unfortunately, many of us are prone to mumbling because we’ve allowed ourselves to fall into that habit. If you are one of those people, you need to practice enunciation and speaking as clearly as possible.
Each time that you rehearse, you need to make sure that you are pronouncing your words clearly. Practice your presentation for a friend or family member.
They can give you feedback, and tell you if there are any words they weren’t able to clearly understand. Then, you can practice these words more than the rest to be able to clearly pronounce them without mumbling.
Try to make a point to remember what words and sounds you are most likely to start mumbling. You can keep these in mind when you are on stage, and remember to speak them more clearly.
Emphasizing a word
What words, phrases, or sentences are the most important during your speech? You should use your voice to emphasize these so that they stand out. But how does this work?
Let me show you an example of proper emphasis. Read these four sentences out loud, one at a time:
“She didn’t say anything”
“She didn’t say anything”
“She didn’t say anything”
“She didn’t say anything”
Do you notice how each of them has a slightly different meaning based on which word is emphasized?
Each sentence has the same exact words at the rest of them, but each sentence has an emphasis placed on a different word. Use this principle when you are giving your speech to emphasize keywords, facts, sentences, and more.
Don’t Forget About the Pace
It is incredibly important to remember not to speak too fast or too slow. If you are going too fast, very few people will be able to keep up, and your audience may miss out on vital details about your message. And when you are going to slow? Well, you may risk boring your audience.
I realize that it is easy to start speaking fast when you are very knowledgeable or excited about a particular topic. But if you want to properly share the facts about this topic with your audience, you have to learn to slow down!
Just like with volume, it is okay to temporarily speed up or slow down in order to emphasize a particular point. But you want to make sure you are talking in a smooth and steady tempo the majority of the time; again, not too fast and not too slow.
And Pause Every Now and Again!
I have already published an extensive article about how to use pauses effectively to create a great speech. But, I’m going to give you some of those tips here, too.
You should consider using pauses:
- … to switch topics, change sentences, or end a paragraph.
- … to replace filler words such as “uh” and “um”.
- … to emphasize a word or phrase.
- … to make up for when you have lost your place.
- … to ask a hypothetical question.
- …. to think of an answer for a question asked by an audience member.
Pausing is natural when done properly and effectively. It will also give you a chance to give your voice a much-needed rest, no matter how short of rest it is. Pausing is a wonderful way to remember that it’s not just what you are saying, but also how you say it.
How to take care of your voice?
If you know me, you know that I almost always offer an extra tip! And it is this: don’t forget to take care of your voice. This is especially important if you speak in public a lot, or work in a field where you are required to use your voice on a daily basis.
If you rely on your voice to make a living, you must care for it.
The concept of taking care of your voice isn’t only limited to singers. You don’t want to wear your voice out by speaking too much or incorrectly. After all, abusing your voice can lead to laryngitis or even vocal nodules in the more extreme cases.
Here are a few things you can do to take care of the quality of your voice:
Avoid excessive screaming or yelling
Both of these can cause serious harm to the voice. If you regularly spend days cheering loudly at the local baseball game, or nights screaming at a concert, you may want to think about changing some of your lifestyle habits. After all, remember that your voice is irreplaceable.
Avoid whispering or clearing your throat
You should also avoid whispering or clearing your throat as much as possible since both of these can actually be significantly harmful to your vocal cords.
Don’t forget to rest
After speaking or using your voice for long periods of time, you should vocal rest. That means, don’t speak for a given amount of time in order to let your voice rejuvenate itself.
You may choose to do this for the rest of the day, for an entire day, or for even longer. How long you choose to rest your voice is up to you.
If possible, also give yourself of a period of no-talking and no using your voice before you give a presentation. This will help you rest up for the big event.
Sometimes you have to stop
If you are doing something with your voice that hurts, stop as soon as possible and don’t do it anymore.
Whether you are imitating a funny sound or doing something louder than what you usually do, you should never use your voice in a way that causes physical discomfort.
What if you have a sore throat?
If you have been sick with a sore throat or coughing, avoid excessively using your voice during that time. Your voice is already under a lot of stress from illness, so be gentle to yourself! And if it’s possible, try not to give any big presentations when you are under the weather.
Additionally – if you absolutely have to use your voice if you are having throat problems it is very useful if you are able to drink something with honey in it. This helps to coat and relax your throat.
It won’t reduce the damage done to your throat so still don’t speak for long periods of time but it will help you get through it. And it will reduce the amount of damage you do to your throat while speaking.
Avoid smoking as much as possible. If you are a smoker who can’t quit, at least try not to smoke right before or after a presentation.
When you take care of your voice, it will thank you by performing well when you need it to. And as always, being mindful of your health in any way is a rewarding endeavor!
Don’t drink coffee or sweet drinks before your speech
Limit caffeine and sweet drinks before your speech. Why? Because they make your mouth dry and it’s hard to speak if your mouth is dry, isn’t it?
Also, Caffeine is a stimulant that may keep you awake, but it also noticeably increases anxiety levels.
You should be drinking water
And the crucial element is that you shouldn’t be drinking water directly before your speech. If you do so you will end up with the mouth full of water and you will be talking extremely sloppily.
Conclusion: How to Use Your Voice Effectively in a Presentation?
Today, we talked about how to use your voice effectively in a presentation. Some of the things we talked about were controlling volume and pace, using proper emphasis, and speaking clearly. Do you have any other tips about effectively using your voice that you would like to share? Leave them in the comments below!
How do I warm up my voice before a speech? Always start by gently releasing your jaw. Learn to practice lip and tongue trills before long periods of speaking. You could even do a little bit of light humming to warm the voice up.
How do I make my speech effective? Make sure you clearly present the purpose of your speech to your audience. Connect with your audience members in a direct manner. And effectively use your voice when you are speaking.
Will I hurt my voice from talking too much? Using your voice for long periods of time can strain it. If you have developed a sore throat after talking or singing excessively, rest your voice and drink plenty of fluids until you feel better.