Want to be a More Powerful Speaker?

Extend your vocal range.

You’d probably agree with me that one of the most crucial aspects of  an audience’s ability to “hear” us is the amount of vocal contrast we use. (There are other contrast aspects too, topics for another day.)

Coming across as varied enough is a key challenge that so many speakers have to face.

Low vocal range equals low contrast, and low contrast leads to low engagement.

We all have a natural range, don’t we? Varying from very little change (almost monotone in delivery), to highly expressive…even dramatic!

You can probably think of people who demonstrate very different ends of that scale!
If we go somewhere in the middle: there are people who are naturally expressive in everyday speech – there’s lots of contrast and they have a variation in vocal range. Not sinking into a monotone as they focus on the content…but also not ‘over the top’.

This makes them easy and enjoyable to listen to, and they keep our attention without any strain…there’s no effort involved for us in their delivery style.

However, this can change when they have to step up and speak in public.

They may suddenly lose expression and alive tone.  Anxiety kicks in and they tense up…or they’re focused intently on getting their point across and forget about the delivery side of the equation.

They may turn into shadows of their natural selves.

And then there are others who generally lack range when they speak: there’s very little pitch change, and it’s much harder to listen to for any length of time and stay engaged.

Why do we love varied delivery so much? Well we’re bombarded by fast-paced cuts and variety on social media, adverts, videos, TV…we’ve come to expect it.

So it can be very tough to sit in an audience and listen to someone basically droning on! Our attention spans really struggle.

Action step 

If you’re unsure whether you have enough contrasting range when speaking or presenting, ask someone you trust or, even better, record yourself. It’s always a great way to learn more about how you sound – if you can face it!

And if you know you lack range, practising regularly reading a book or text out loud – particularly children’s books – can be transformative. You may find expression and tones you never knew you had!

Poetry’s also fantastic to test yourself, and it’s a tool that I’ve used in the past: I do understand that may be a bridge too far for a lot of people ????
Whether you’re naturally expressive vocally but it disappears when you’re nervous; or you’re someone who doesn’t use much range in everyday life, it’s worth remembering this:

To be truly engaging and impactful as a speaker, extending your range can make an enormous difference to how you’re received and how well your information is retained.

Best wishes with your public speaking or presentations!

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