November 1st 2011

Public Service Magazine

Masterclass: Learning simple vocal techniques will enable a speaker to maximise the effectieness of a speech or presentation, says Simon Cannon, Director of Professional Voice

The impact of the most well prepared presentation or speech can still be negligible, unless the presenter has worked on their vocal delivery and personal impact.

People often think that good speakers are born and not made. Not so. Even professional speakers learn simple but effective vocal techniques to give their delivery impact. So what skills can be learned in order to make a real difference to a senior manager?

Your posture and alighment are the first areas to get right. They not only affect the visual impact you make, but also your vocal control. Tension in your body can cause your voice to rise in pitch and become tight, and will make your breath shallow and snatched. By understanding how to manage your physical alightment and control your breath under pressure, you can develop a nature and confident-sounding voice.

Te tone of your voice needs to match your content. If, sor example. You are trying to motivate your colleagues – but sound as though your favourite football team has just lost a match – you won't succeed in your purpose. Think abou your intention and how it changes throughout a presentation: there should be a variety of different tones reflecting the different content of your message. For example, are you trying to motivae, persuade, inform or reassure> There;s n appropriate tone and intonation you can use to convey that speaking objectie with real effect.

Then there's pitch. All too often people speak on the same naote throughout a talk, and an literally send their listeners to sleep. By learing to use just one or two different notes of different pitch, can you sound more engaging, more authoritiative, more assertive. By lifting key words, numbers or statistics, you will highlight them for your audience and make it easier for them to follow. By usig a low note coupled with a pause after an important point, you will give that message authoirity and weight.

Your pace should be slightly slower then you feel comfortable with, to ie your audience a chance to digest what you are saying. Slowing your pace down will also allow you more time to breathe, and will make you articulate your words more clearly.
Finally, learn to properly project your voice so that you fill the room, and engage the audience from the outset. You will find that breathing fully, and producing your voice from the chest – not your throat – will allow you to speak in a more relaxed and powerful way, and prevent you from running out of breath in the middle of a sentence.

The techniques you can learn are all easy to understand, buy need practice to integrate them into your everyday spaking: rather then changing a tennis or golf swing.

A really impactful presentation should have a purpose, be well structured, have a clear storyline from beginning to end, have visuals whih add meaning for the audience, be well-delivered. This is a lot to thing about – but it can be done!

Materclass: Tips for Presentations:

Follow the S P E A K rule:
S low Down
This will allow your listeners time to digest what you're saying
P ause
After a key point, pause it gives it emphasis.
E nergise the voice
Speak to fill the space, even when using a microphone
A ritculate clearly
Especially if you have a strong accent that might be difficult for an international audience to understand
K ey word lift
Lift your pitch on key words, dates and figures to draw attention to them