Persuasive Presentations - It's In The Voice!

by David Woodford

Can You Hear Me Now? You may have worked for weeks getting your presentation ready, but if no one can hear you, or you don't sound authoritative, your audience will likely tune out. So what can you do about it? Heed these four "P's" to improve your voice.

I was working with a student recently who had a very quiet voice -- and he knew it. But, too, he recognized that it was time to do something about it. "I realize that making a persuasive presentation that can be heard by everyone is an essential step in my career development" he said. And how right he was.

How many times have you sat through a presentation where you have had to strain to hear what the speaker said? In fact, after about five minutes of that, we usually switch off and give up the attempt.

Whilst your material might be top notch, if no one can hear you clearly, all you preparation is wasted. Not only that, if you do not have authority in your voice, then it will be a very difficult job to convince anybody of anything.

So what can we do?

Pitch
The pitch of our voice could also be called the 'musicality.' It has to do with the note at which we pitch a word or phrase. Doing so in a monotone is guaranteed to send your audience to sleep! What we need to do is to vary our pitch according to the importance of the expression we are using. For instance: when we are excited our pitch goes up and when we are serious or somber, it drops (just listen to the voice of the sports commentator when someone scores a goal and compare that to when someone is injured, to see what range is needed!) If you have a problem with pitch, either join a choir :-) , or practice singing in the shower to increase your range (or learn Norwegian - with apologies to my Norwegian friends)

We can work on what is called MODULATION.

Usually connected with such things as radio waves -- which can be modulated to change their characteristics -- modulation is also an essential skill for the professional presenter. So let me present the 4 'P's to improve your voice and increase your authority in presentations.



Pace
The pace is clearly the speed at which we speak. That too needs to vary during the course of a presentation to maintain audience interest in our material. Again, sports commentators give admirable examples of this during the course of their work. When you want to emphasize an important point, slow down and speak distinctly. When you want to cover less important points it's Ok to speed up.

Power
Power speaks for itself. And motivation of an audience certainly calls for the ability to increase the power of our voice. But remember too that it is possible to 'whisper' and still be heard! It's the relative sound that counts from the audience's side not yours! Here's a suggestion. Read a few sentences out loud to some colleagues sitting some distance away increasing the volume (power) all the time, and ask them to raise their hands at the point at which it gets uncomfortable. I guarantee you will be in for a shock! That point for you will seem like you are shouting at the top of your voice! Why? Because when we hear ourselves talking, the sound has only traveled from our mouth to our ears -- but a few inches. But for our audience that distance had to be measured in feet! So be careful!

Pausing
The last - but arguably the most important - of our 4 'P's. PLEASE pause from time to time -- for everyone's sake! For your own sake to get some breath. And for our sake, to allow time for the points to sink in. Time has a funny habit of extending when you are a presenter. By that I mean that 3 seconds of silence to the listener feels like 3 minutes to the speaker, and he feels that if he stops, even for a second, the audience will think he has finished and get up and leave. Not so! Pausing not only gives us time to think, it can also be effectively used to create anticipation. "Now I would like you to think about this next point very seriously. (PAUSE and count to 5). During the next three months we need to ."

Remember the 4 'P's for persuasive presentations?

Pitch, Pace, Power and Pausing.

Work hard on those and see how your audience's attention will improve in leaps and bounds.


David Woodford has been teaching presentation skills for over 30 years, and during a period of almost 15 years he taught this to Swedish businessmen at the highest level. His courses were always highly rate. For more tips and suggestions and free resources about presentation skills, visit David's site at http://www.presentersforum.com/.

 
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