Most professionals, especially as they move up in their careers, are required to make speeches to internal audiences, external audiences, or both. No matter the size or kind of audience, these are important moments to communicate with authority.

Working with hundreds of business people over the last 20 years as a communications coach and trainer, I’ve seen some professionals stand before a group and powerfully move them out of indifference. I’ve also experienced those who fall flat, failing to engage the audience on any level. Delivering memorable, effective presentations is something that is available to all of us. It just takes self-awareness and practice.

If you’re going for mastery in the skill of public speaking, your voice is where to start. Research from the University of California shows 38 percent of a person’s credibility is associated with the sound of his/her voice. It is not just an important part of being heard, your voice is the key to sharing your ideas, establishing a positive reputation and moving your career forward.

Becoming more aware of your particular skills and areas for improvement is critical to enhancing your performance and helping you feel empowered next time you take the pulpit. Here are five elements for you to consider as you prepare for your next presentation. These rules apply whether you’re speaking to an audience of one or 5,000:

1. Pitch – the highs and lows of the voice.
Lack of pitch results in being monotone. Your voice should move like a roller coaster, going up and down to create interest.

2. Inflection – the way you change the pitch of your voice by the emotion put behind your words.
For example, “join me” said with anger, friendliness, or seduction dramatically changes the meaning. The preferred method is to pitch the voice down at the end of the sentence.

3. Emphasis – choosing the words you want to stand out.
Each time you emphasize a different word, the meaning of the whole sentence changes! Be aware of how you are using this skill—and be careful not to overuse it.

  • What sound makes you react?
  • “What sound makes you react?
  • “What sound makes you react?

4. Vocal resonance – the richness of the voice.
A lower resonating voice is generally considered more pleasant to the ear. The richness of the voice is actually a muscular activity. You can build up that muscle if you want to change your voice.

  • Try this exercise used by vocal experts: Put a pen in your mouth. Hold it with your teeth and talk aloud. Practice this and your voice will automatically lower as your muscle strength builds.

5. Breath control – the quantity and quality of inhale and exhale.
Improving breath control is one of the easiest ways to improve the voice. Focus on the exhale. When adrenaline or nerves kick in, we tend to inhale more than we exhale. Before giving your next speech, take in a good breath and then focus on a deep exhale to bring more control to your voice.

Heathere Evans-Keenan, APR, teaches teams and individuals how they can reach their full potential through effective communications practices, inside and out. Learn more about KEENAN PR’s workshops and coaching or follow her on Twitter.

Keenan PR Workshops and Coaching Interested in mastering these tools?
Register now for an upcoming online workshop: “How to Make Great Presentations”

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