There are a number of factors that effect the way your voice sounds:
- Physical – the size and shape of your mouth, nasal passages, vocal chords, etc.
- Health – your general well-being and the tone of your muscles.
- Temperament and Personality – the way you respond to things going on around you.
- Environment – both physical and social.
- Youthful habits – your vocal behaviour as you were growing up.
Most of these factors can be altered or retrained to improve the quality of voice when you speak.
Here are some basic concepts to improve and develop your voice:
You used your voice freely when you were a child. As you developed “mature” speech, your vocal habits became ruts. You need to go back and revive the freedom in using you voice, exercising your imagination and experimenting:
- Imitate animals – moo, crow, quack, meow, bark, etc.
- Imitate musical sounds – a bell, a drum, a trumpet
- Get your body into it – pretend you are cheering on your favourite team, cheer, encourage, groan.
- Practice emotion – say good morning as many ways as you can – cheerful, perfunctory, angry, grumpy, etc.
Focus on meaning
Find some passages to read aloud. Before you start, read the passage to yourself and analyze the meaning. Read the passage aloud and try and convey that meaning with your voice: stress the basic thought; the development of the thought; the balance of ideas; any contrasts; etc.
Use your emotions
The physical state which accompanies emotion will help you vocalize. As you read a passage aloud, try and recall a situation where you have had similar feelings.
Practice vocal mechanics
Musicians practice the basics regularly. A pianist has a range of exercises to develop their dexterity, speed, sensitivity. A good speaking voice should also be developed with exercises.
Here is a brief idea of the types of exercises that will improve your voice:
- Say the OO sound as low-pitched as you can. Slide smoothly up to a higher pitch (think a musical octave) and slide back down to the original pitch.
- Say the OO sound for a long as you can. Repeat on different pitches. Do the same for the sounds AH, OH and EE.
- Say the OO sound starting as quietly as you can. Gradually increase the volume, then let the sound get quiet again. Do the same for the sounds AH, OH and EE.
An Internet search on “vocal exercises for speaking” will give you many more exercises from which to choose.
Speakers in the past have worked to improve their voices. It takes time, patience, knowledge, and practice.
Think about the time invested in preparing a great speech: research, organization, practice, preparing a slide presentation, etc. Now, imagine neglecting the last preparation step by not allowing time to prepare the facility when you’ll give your speech.
Your presentation is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. You blast into the room —with the audience already there— at 9:58 a.m. and proceed to set up your notes and equipment.
Ten minutes later, you’re fiddling with cables trying to connect the projector to you laptop. You haven’t booted up yet. It’s powered by Windows, so we know we have another ten-minute wait while it starts.
By this point, you’ve pretty much lost your audience.
Make sure that you spend enough time in the presentation room before your speech begins. Don’t let unforeseen circumstances put a damper on your speech. Get the details of the location where you will deliver your speech ahead of time.
- Make sure you have all the material you need: notes, files, handouts, USB stick, projector, etc.
- Double check your equipment. Make sure it’s working.
- Bring extra hardware as practical. Have two memory sticks, with the presentation file. Throw in an extension cord and extra connector cables for your tech. hardware.
- Make sure you have directions to your location, so you can get there early.
At the location
- Arrive early. At minimum, you need time to get your material ready. Better yet, be there early enough to set up and then greet audience members as they arrive. You can help build rapport with the audience by spending a few minutes chatting with them.
- Check the set-up. Can everybody see the speaker and presentation clearly? If possible, arrange the chairs and tables in a configuration that works for you.
- Make sure that the room is comfortable. Is it too hot or cold? Can you adjust the temperature?
- Set-up any electronic equipment you are using and test it to make sure it’s working properly and can be seen easily.
- Make sure the cables and cords are run in a safe manner. A roll of masking tape is helpful for keeping the cable out of the path of audience members.
- If the venue is providing the equipment, take a few minutes to make sure you know how to operate it.
- Test the microphone and sound system, standing where you’ll be using them.
Preparation at every stage of the process leads to a successful speech or presentation.
Creating a PowerPoint presentation requires skill, knowledge and creativity. Here are five tips to help you create an engaging and fun PowerPoint presentation.
Share a story.
All PowerPoint presentations should tell a narrative which includes a beginning, middle and end part. The initial part of the presentation should give a brief introduction of the problem. Try to ask yourself the question—“What are the things that you want to solve today?” Key findings should be presented in the middle portion of the presentation, but these facts should tie back to the main issue that you want to solve. By the end of the presentation, the audience should feel they have learned something and have a good understanding of the solution.
Always remember, less is more.
More often than not, people have this tendency to over-complicate a simple presentation with quirky transitions, too much text or flashy images. Some of these features are unnecessary. Try to make each slide free of clutter, using only a single image to sell an idea.
Branding is the ultimate key.
Create a PowerPoint presentation that will reinforce your brand image. Use the same fonts, logos, and color schemes that you use for the business. Treat a presentation like a marketing or advertising campaign. Don’t skimp.
Take a break.
Based on a research conducted by the University of Tennessee, the average adult’s attention span lasts for 20 minutes. It is best to keep your presentation brief and straight to the point. If you think you’ll use more than 20 minutes, give the audience a minute or two to relax. Steve Jobs often allotted a blank slide as a way for the audience to maintain their focus.
Practice and practice some more.
A wonderful presentation comes down to its speaker’s ability to capture the audience’s attention and keep them focussed on the topic. The best speakers are the one who don’t stare at their notes and don’t read scripts. Try to focus on the main points and let handouts outline the rest. Brilliant speakers don’t convey information; they sell ideas.
So, you’ve decided to start giving speeches to promote your product or yourself. You know your subject and you have material ready. Where can you go to speak?
Guess what? There are loads of places looking for someone to speak. The weekly e-mail newsletter from my professional association periodically carries the tagline, “We’re looking for speakers. If you have something to share that you feel would be of benefit to our members, place contact…”
So, where can you speak?
- Service clubs: Rotary, Kiwanis, etc.
- Community organizations: Chamber of Commerce, 4H, Junior Achievement, Libraries etc.
- Professional and trade associations: Realtors, Insurance Agents, etc.
- Direct sales groups: Amway, Avon, PartyLite, etc.
- Church groups:
- Community learning: Community colleges, civic education programs, universities
- Conferences: Local, Regional, National, etc.
- Small business: Small businesses generally do not have a big budget for staff development. Speakers can provide employee training for such business.
- Non-profit organizations: Same as above.
- Speakers groups: National Speakers Association, Local Speakers Bureau, Toastmasters International, etc.
- Related industry listings: Association of Meeting Planners, Corporate Meeting Planners, etc.
- On-line search: Enter “call for speakers” in your favourite search engine.
- Networking: Word of mouth is the most successful way for meeting planners to find speakers for their events.
Think about your desired audience. Don’t go and speak just anywhere and everywhere. If your speech doesn’t fit the group’s function, they may not be listening to what you’re saying.
Not every speaking opportunity carries a cash payment. Smaller groups and organizations will often provide a meal and a small token thank you gift. Larger groups may give an honorarium and others still will ask you to set your fee. If you do a good job of marketing yourself or a product, you will make money.
Get out and do it. You may not be a brilliant speaker at first, but you’ll be good enough and will improve with practice. You will start enjoying it, and the opportunities and profits will multiply.
From the Office of Educational Development at UC Berkeley:
Analyze Your Audience
- Remember that the members of the audience are beneficiaries of your communication.
- Don’t make assumptions about your audience.
- Figure out the basics. Who are these people?
- demographics (age, ethnicity, gender mix, etc.).
- predispositions (hopes, fears, positives/negatives, level of interest).
- knowledge of/experience with subject/me.
- In what kind of setting will you be speaking?
- large lecture hall or small seminar room or classroom.
- lighting and sound issues.
- time of day.
- Take into account the “me, here, now.”
- Picture yourself as a member of the audience and ask “How does this message affect me, here, now?”
- “Me, here, now” translates into what you as a sender have to offer your audience/receivers—what they will be able to understand, accept, support, consider important—because it matters to them.
- Establish objectives for your audience:
- What do I want my audience to know?
- What do I want my audience to do
Openings, and Closings
OPENINGS. Stay away from the predictable (Good morning…, Today, I’m here to talk about…). Instead:
- Begin with a provocative question, anecdote, or current event—and how it relates to the content.
- Ask the audience a question
- Set up a problem—and promise that they’ll have all the tools for a solution by the end of the class.
CLOSINGS. Many speakers simply talk until the end of the time or beyond it—and say, “I see we’re out of time.” Instead:
- Plan a rhythm for your speaking—plan to end with content 5 minutes early, so you can summarize, raise questions.
- Set aside a time for questions—and structure that time.
You won’t cover everything you want in a talk or speech.
- Decide what is essential, what is important, and what is helpful.
- Cover the first; try to cover the second; forget about the third.
- Release a little control over the material and rely on a list of supplementary readings for the nonessentials.
- Set objectives.
- What do you want to have accomplished at the end of the speech?
- What do you want the audience to know at the end of the speech?
- Plan a speech to cover less than the allotted period.
- It takes some time to get going.
- Questions always take up more time than you expect.
- Divide the speech into segments and follow the standard speech structure.
- Divide it in terms of time and material.
- Try for roughly equal blocks, each one on a topic.
- Tell them what you’ll say, say it, and tell them what you’ve said.
- Speak from notes or an outline, rather than a complete text.
- It’s too tempting to simply read, rather than lecture, from a complete text.
- Reading also creates a barrier between speaker and audience.
- Writing up an entire speech is time consuming.
- A written speech often becomes a fossil that never gets updated.
- Be conversational; speak naturally; be yourself.
- That self may be formal, “laid back,” understated, or hyper. Use those traits; don’t fight against them.
- Talk about the material; don’t lecture about it.
- (Talking is easier if you don’t read verbatim.)
- Vary your pacing and voice.
- Gauge audience reaction.
- Repeat critical points immediately if you sense the necessity.
- Use your voice to emphasize the important points.
- Pause before new points.
- Use transitional statements to move to the next idea.
- Use gestures to emphasize points.
- Have your gestures mirror your voice.
- Adjust your gestures to the size of the room.
- Look at the audience.
- Try to cover all parts of the room by dividing it into four quadrants.
- If direct eye contact makes you forget your place, try looking just over a listener’s head, or between two audience members.
- Use language to create pictures.
- Use metaphors, analogies, and similes.
- Observe the techniques of others.
- Try out techniques you admire in others.
- Like any skill, delivery must be learned
Credibility & Commitment
Although speaking isn’t theatre, we know that audience find concepts and ideas most accessible and credible from someone they consider entertaining.
- Think about antecedent image—perception is often stronger than reality.
- Credibility is enhanced by:
- Your own sense of comfort and confidence presenting material.
- Your enthusiasm and interest in teaching.
- Your research and own ideas.
- Commitment is enhanced by:
- Relating your own experience, ideas, and feelings.
- Taking the first person approach, not separating yourself from your subject.
- Relating your “passion” for your subject.
- Delivery is tied to both commitment and credibility:
An old UCLA study of effective presentations analyzed 3 elements (verbal, vocal, visual). Here’s what it found was important in establishing credibility/believability:
- Verbal (words you say): 7%.
- Vocal (how you sound when you say them): 38%.
- Visual (how you look when you say them): 55%.
- Your energy and intensity will move your audience—and help you reach your objectives.
- Learning takes place best in an active, not a passive environment.
- Interaction is a continuous way to
- Assess the me, here, now.
- Determine whether or not your content is understood.
- Share the responsibility of learning more equitably and appropriately.
- How to build interaction?
- Have questions prepared—begin with relatively easy, accessible ones.
- Work to get everyone involved, even in large groups.
- Ask the audience to consider issues with the person sitting next to them/jot down ideas, questions, concerns.
- Discuss as a larger group.
- Move yourself!
- Don’t scurry back and forth, but don’t get locked into one position.
- Explicitly request and encourage questions.
- The audience will see that you have a genuine interest in what they’re thinking.
- Be aware of how your behavior and comments can set the tone for questioning.
- A negative response (e.g., “We’ve already covered that”) discourages further questions and may make the audience think you don’t really want questions.
- Make sure everyone hears the question.
- Repeat it if necessary.
- But don’t make a habit of simply repeating every question.
- Ask the audience if they heard the question; then ask the person to repeat.
- Clarify questions.
- Say, “Do you mean that . . . ,” or “I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question,” rather than “Your question isn’t clear.”
- Answer questions as directly as possible.
- Address your answer to the whole audience.
- Ask whether you have answered the question.
- Be diplomatic when people raise tangential, overly complicated questions, or persistently ask questions just to be asking.
- Ask them to stop by after the presentation or to contact you.
- If a someone is simply confused, say, “Let me go over this point a bit more slowly.”
- Get regular feedback.
- Ask the audience to spend the last five minutes of class writing down the most important thing they learned that day or one question they have as a result of the talk.
- Or ask them to write down questions they still have.
- Use eye contact as a tool for continuous feedback.
- If you notice people with questioning looks, stop what you’re doing and ask if you need to clarify.
- If you get no response, go ahead and clarify.
A number of co-workers in our office are transferring to new opportunities in new regions. We had a luncheon today to say goodbye and make some presentations. I was asked to say goodbye to one of the employees who was leaving.
Combining the fear of public speaking with the emotions of saying goodbye, can create stressful situation for people. To simplify the preparation, I have a simple template that I use to write a farewell speech.
- Start with the obvious – use an introduction that says thank you for the privilege of representing the other members of the organization in making the presentation, and perhaps why you were chosen to make the presentation.
- Talk about beginnings – what circumstances brought this person into the company, or what was your first contact with them?
- Tell about the person – what are the personal characteristic that made a contribution to the organization: were they energetic, optimistic, perky, dependable, quiet, friendly, etc? Talk about the things people are going to miss when they’re gone.
- Cover the history – what were the accomplishments or achievements during the person’s time with the company? Use stories, quips, memories to highlight what they contributed.
- Why are they leaving? – if appropriate, touch on the circumstances that are taking them away. Look at the opportunities and challenges and wish them all the best for future success.
- Present the gift – finish by presenting the gift that will serve as a token of thanks and remembrance.
Note: Not every one of these thoughts are going to be appropriate every time. If the employee is leaving because of corporate reorganization, you’ll probably omit the “why are they leaving” question. If the employee leaving is one of those who create more than their share of office conflict, try and frame your remarks from a personal perspective, rather than giving a false-positive picture of a warm and fuzzy workplace relationship.
Whether you’re saying a short goodbye to a volunteer coach in a youth league or making a major presentation at the retirement of a long-term employee, a farewell speech should bring conclusion and tribute for those leaving and those staying behind. A template like this will help you cover the points you need to consider when saying goodbye.