Milo Shapiro | Guest Columnist
In our last column, we began looking at how speakers can utilize my coaching technique called the Seven Variants of Vocal Variety. The first three we covered were Volume, Pitch, and Speed. Let’s continue.
4) Breakpoints. One of the classic moments in The Rocky Horror Picture Show is when the doctor says, “I see you shiver with antici …” and all his guests stand still, almost breathless, waiting several seconds for him to finally say “… pation.” While I wouldn’t normally recommend five-second pauses in the middle of words, there’s something to be said for the power of wiselyused pauses.
Because any silence from the platform is cause for a bit of dynamic tension, create it on purpose. Say the following sentence first completely ignoring the ^ characters and then again putting a 1-second pause in each spot that I’ve placed them:
“You kids go into that house and I don’t want one ^ single ^ word ^ of complaint.”
If Mom or Dad said it in the way that had the pauses, I’m betting that it got a lot more attention.
5) Holdings. Holdings are almost the opposite of breakpoints. They let a message of a word sink in, too, but from the use of sound rather than the use of silence. Holdings involve the stretching of a sound − usually a vowel, but some consonants work, too (Tony the Tiger trademarked a career out of holding a consonant). Holdings give you a chance to stress a word without having to change volume or pitch, although you could do that, too. In our example, say it as written and with a holding on the two underlined letters.
“Let this be the last thing you say if you really want to make an impact.”
The “L” might feel weird but it’s doable … just not the best choice. Now try the “a” instead. Better? I’d bet that the long “e” in “really” probably felt even more natural. That’s why we rehearse these things: to know in advance what we’re going to do because we liked it earlier.
6) Emotion. While no one should look like they are going through a traumatic therapy session while on the platform, your audience wants to connect with you. It’s really okay − and powerful − to show a little humanity.
Let a serious moment show in your voice. Give an almost-laugh to your tone when something is a source of good news. Put a hint of a fearful tonality to a sentence on something of concern. Let your pride tone show when the message deserves it. This might feel vulnerable at first, but audiences appreciate your willingness to open yourself a bit.
7) Intonation. This is a catch-all for all those fun things we can do with our voices. We can sound more nasal, breathy, gruff, childish, mournful, and so much more. When I quote people, I’ll sometimes even give them an accent that the original person didn’t have, but it’s just a nice break from listening to my standard base tone and it sets that character apart in my story. It also keeps me from having to say, “He said” over and over, because it’s clear when “he” (or she!) sounds different from me.
You needn’t go overboard with your use of these seven considerations, but peppering your presentation with some of them can make a great difference. Honestly!
Milo Shapiro is a San Diego-based interactive motivational speaker and speaking coach, and 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.