By Milo Shapiro | Downtown News Guest Columnist
Q: I’ve been told that I ought to use more vocal variety, but this doesn’t come natural to me. What can I do? − W.L., Tierrasanta, Calif.
Having good vocal variety and using it in the right places in your presentation can make all the difference between being big news and being a big snooze!
When I’m coaching, I encourage the use of what I call the Seven Variants of Vocal Variety. These are simple things that one can work on varying to make a moment in your presentation different from the one it follows. Some might be incorporated into the same sentence, while others a whole section might be done a certain way, especially if you’re creating a character to differentiate individual speakers in a story.
Let’s look at the seven points, starting from the simplest, to those requiring more practice:
1) Volume. It may sound simple but some people don’t vary this factor. I don’t want you screaming at your audience or making them strain to hear you, but boosting volume can point out passion for a word or phrase vs. lowering volume to convey softness and ease on a topic.
2) Pitch. Singing is not the only place that pitch is important – and luckily with speaking – you don’t even have to be “on pitch.” You just have to vary it. Whether you tend to have a high- or low-pitched voice, you are capable of going higher and lower than you typically do. Try saying the following phrase all in the same pitch and then again saying the italicized words at a somewhat higher pitch:
“We don’t sell like that and I can’t imagine why we’d want to!”
See how that sentence sounds livelier that way? I bet you increased your volume a bit as well, which is great, too (unless you’re reading this column in a cubicle … )
3) Speed. Some of us naturally speak faster than others and that’s okay, so long as you’re not losing the audience members who might not be able to keep up. Yet, speak too slow … and some attendees, especially younger ones, will lose interest. The key again? Variety.
4) Let’s try saying this example all at one speed and then again while picking up the pace of the italicized portion, and then finally by finishing the phrase extra slowly:
“A key to customer loyalty − and this is especially true with women − is to show you’re really listening.”
If your pitch went up in the middle too, good for you! Why is this effective? Because the return to the slow-down for that last phrase now makes it seem more significant.
There’s so much to say on vocal variety that I’ll save the other four points for our next column.
These are simple things that one can work on varying to make a moment in your presentation different from the one it follows.
Milo Shapiro is a San Diego-based interactive motivational speaker, speaking coach is the author of “Public Speaking: Get A’s, Not Zzzzzz’s!” Learn more on his coaching & training at www.PublicDynamics.com and as a speaker/teambuilder at www.IMPROVentures.com.