This is a guest post by Dot Lyon.
You have a lot to think about when delivering a presentation. Your word choices are key to effectively conveying your message. Variations in your voice’s tone make those words come alive. Proper body language delivers your intended emotions. Eye contact completes that vital connection between you and the audience.
However, none of that matters if audience members can’t hear what you are saying.
I recently attended a graduation ceremony in a football stadium with poor acoustics. I was sitting among the unfortunate section of the audience who heard excessive echoes. We understood about every third word spoken by the first few presenters. Trying to mentally fill in the missing words was frustrating. The experience was particular disheartening when the other sections of the audience cheered or laughed. We frantically asked our neighbors “What did she say?” because we really hated missing the good parts. I felt great relief when the third speaker stepped up to the podium and correctly projected her voice to compensate for the echoing. She spoke more slowly and with greater articulation. I was amazed to discover that just a few adjustments in speaking could overcome the challenges of the venue.
Whether you are speaking to a handful of people in a conference room or a large crowd in an outdoor arena, it is imperative that you adjust your voice to the situation. Properly projecting your voice involves more than just changing its volume. The following techniques will help you more effectively reach your audience:
- Face the crowd. Look into the audience to direct your voice towards them, rather than down at your notes or back at the screen behind you.
- Learn to relax. Tension causes your voice to become quieter and higher. Try to keep your throat and jaw muscles relaxed to reduce vocal constriction and better control your pitch.
- Adjust your breathing. Since breath produces voice, strengthen your voice by taking deep, controlled breaths from your diaphragm.
- Work on articulation. Avoid careless, sloppy talking by practicing in front of a mirror. Improve pronunciation by adequately opening your mouth, flexing your lips and controlling your tongue. Work on enunciating consonants more clearly.
- Adjust your speaking rate. Since talking too slow or too fast distorts articulation and causes audiences to lose interest, aim for speaking between 120 and 160 words per minute.
What techniques do you need to work on so your audiences can hear you better?
About the author: Dot Lyon is a freelance writer for organizations including Briefings Media Group. She previously wrote and edited for the Center for Chemistry Education at Miami University.