Leveraging The Most Powerful Instrument YOU Have To Speak!

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Have you ever been completely immersed in a captivating story as someone describes the next event, and then the next,…until, BOOM, something shocking happens? Or have you ever tuned out when someone was telling you something because what they were talking about sounded sooooooo boring? And finally, have you ever thought about why these things seemed boring and interesting before you even heard all of what the person had to say? Well then, you’ve come to the right place. Today we’ll be talking about vocal variety and how it can impact, well, the impact of your speech.

As I have mentioned briefly in quite a few of my previous blog posts, vocal variety is an extremely powerful instrument utilized by all of the greatest speakers. Though the content of what you are talking about does matter a lot, vocal variety matters just as much, if not more. Even the most untrue statements can seem convincing when presented in the right way, and even the most true statements can seem unconvincing (For examples of this, just look at the media! At some point in your life, you’ve probably believed a statement from TV, a video someone sent you, or some other form of media that just wasn’t true. Chances are, at least part of the reason why you believed it was because of how the speaker said it!)

When you are giving a speech, a big part of the way you present the information you are talking about to your audience is how you say it. As study.com puts well, “Vocal variety in speech is a way to communicate by changing the sound of your voice using different speeds and tones while speaking. Good vocal variety helps keep the audience engaged and clues them in on your meaning, feelings, or emphasis.” 

Vocal Variety is made up of 4 main parts which I’ll be focusing on in this blog article. These four main parts are Volume, Pace, Pitch, and Tone or V.P.P.T for short. Volume is how loudly or softly you speak. Pace is how quickly or slowly you speak. Pitch is how high or low your voice sounds as you speak, and is often associated with Tone which is how you use your voice to signify a feeling or attitude about something. Using these four elements when planning how you will present your speech gives a good foundation for great vocal variety in your speech.

Here are some tips and  examples for how to use vocal variety effectively in your speech:

  1. Focus on the feelings. As Maya Angelou, a famous poet, once said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Vocal variety is all about how the audience receives your speech, and a big part of that is how they feel. When you are practicing your speech, think about how you want to make your audience feel. Do you want to make them feel surprised? Say or do something very abruptly or loudly after a part of your speech you did with a more normal tone. Want to make them feel sad? 
  2. Get feedback. A great way to test if you are getting the right feelings across to your audience is to record yourself and play it back to yourself. When you listen to yourself giving the speech, how do you feel? Did the feelings that you meant to express come across, and if not, how can you possibly improve? Another way to get this kind of feedback is to ask other people to watch your speech and give you any suggestions and comments they had about it. This can be nice, because a fresh pair of eyes can help you notice things you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
  3. Figure out what kind of voice you have Some people naturally talk softer or louder, faster or slower, or with more or less variety in their speech then others, and that’s okay! You have noticed, either personally or through others’ feedback, that you tend to lean more into one side of the spectrum than the other, and that it negatively impacts your speech. If so, you may want to try doing some exercises to help overcome that. Check out the extra resources at the end of this article for help!
  4. Watch others If you know someone that is really good at speaking, next time you see them, in person or through a call or video, pay attention to how they incorporate vocal variety. Even if you don’t know anyone like this, there are many speakers online who you can watch for ideas and examples of using vocal variety.
  5. Moderation When you are deciding how to emphasize different phrases in your speech, keep in mind that sometimes, the best choice is just a pause. Using too much variation in your speech can be distracting and a little weird-sounding. Make sure to keep your vocal variety interesting, but not frightening!

Want to learn more about and practice your vocal variety? Here are some useful references to help you get started: 

  • Creating Vocal Variety This video is part of a playlist that was originally meant to help the National Weather Service with training its employees. It partnered with experts to create these videos, though, and they are helpful to those who are just looking to improve their public speaking! For more information, check out this playlist from their Youtube channel. 
  • Toastmasters Your Speaking Voice PDF This PDF is a free PDF manual found on the Toastmasters International website. As you may know from reading previous blog posts, Toastmasters International (“Where Leaders are Made”) is an organization that aims to give people learning public speaking a comfortable, social, and fun space to learn and grow in the field of public speaking. Unfortunately, Toastmaster clubs are only available to adults, but if you are a kid who would like to look into something like this, they offer something called Gavel Clubs. To learn more about Toastmasters, visit www.toastmasters.org. To learn more about Gavel Clubs, click on this link: Gavel Clubs
  • Eliminating a Monotone Voice | Raise Your Voice Coaching Do you have a monotone voice? Here’s one video that could help!
  • How To Speak Clearly And Loudly Have people told you they couldn’t hear you or that your voice wasn’t that clear? Watch this video to learn more about improving! 
  • Vocal exercise – Speaking #5: What’s your pitch pattern? This video will help you figure out how different amounts of stress on different words can completely change the meaning of what you are saying.

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