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You must have felt mesmerized listening to some speakers on various occasions and some must have forced you to sleep. What is special or different in the speakers who can communicate well with the audience and communicate excellently from others who may have lot of knowledge about the subject they are dealing, but it becomes a real task to keeping yourself awake during their lectures or presentations.

When we are talking naturally, we vary our tone, and volume, and use inflections. But when we are giving speech, we tend to become mechanical and artificial, hence disconnect.

Research shows that how you say something is five times more important than what you say. Inflections can impact meaning and conversationality. When reading copy or giving a memorized speech, a lack of conversational inflection will “give you away” very quickly. The perfect words with the wrong inflection will sound mechanical and boring.

Inflections are the smooth pitch changes within words. They add interest and melody to the voice and speech. The four general types of inflection are rising, falling, and rising and falling circumflex. We use a great deal of rising circumflex (up-down-up) when we talk, especially at the ends of phrases. They indicate to the listener that although we may be taking a pause, we haven’t finished speaking. It’s also used to indicate the first element of a contrast (It’s not red, it’s green.) and for a variety of other reasons. Unfortunately, it’s a vocal aspect that’s frequently eliminated in performance, especially when we read copy or have a speech memorized.

Great speakers understand that an audience cannot absorb a fast-paced 30-minute speech. Nor can they tolerate a program that does not include variations in voice tone. Changing your pitch, power and pace will keep the focus where it belongs – on you and your subject.

In my previous post, I suggested you record your speech and listen to it. While listening to it you should observe – if you are varying your pitch. It’s very annoying to listen to someone who is speaking at the same level without changing the pitch, it’s monotone. Incidentally, it’s the root word for the adjective monotonous; it makes it self-explanatory. 

Some people believe they should develop a deep, resonant voice, and as a result they speak with low energy and little enthusiasm. Others try over inflecting which can sound artificial rather than believable – remember the famous recorded voice you get to listen many times in a day “The person you are calling is busy on some other call, please hold the line or call again later.” It has excessive inflection and sounds nearly mocking the person on the other end.

The rate at which we speak also signifies the nature of speech, if you are giving thoughtful comments it, the speech is expected to be slow paced, but if you are doing a sales pitch, then you should better pick up the speed.

Same rule goes for the volume. The volume is like a bold typeface in speech. You should shout when you wish to emphasize a point. And just like a text totally written in boldface loses its emphasis so does a speech given in shrilling high volume. The audience would find it irritating and would not be able to concentrate on the content rather they would wait for you to finish your speech as early as possible.

Speak naturally, but deliberately add highs and lows. As Ron Arden suggests – When you want to make a point speak louder and slower or softer and slower change the way you speak.

While listening to your recording, also notice if you are speaking clearly; it will be a clever idea to ask someone else to listen to your recording and tell you what he feels. Check if you cut off the final syllable of many words, as some of the speakers do it quite often. As in writing, we keep some space between words to let the writing remain legible; same is true when you speak. Observe if you are giving an appropriate gap between words. Remember, I am saying gap, not asking for pauses between words.

You should also see if you are adding noise to your speech. A noise is anything which is redundant, not desired in the speech, not contributing to the content that you wish to convey.  The words like “um”, “uh”, “you know”, “actually” or any other such word, which is termed as crutch words. It cripples your speech. If you notice such words in your speech, you need to consciously work towards avoiding them in your speech. With effort and practice you would be able to clear your speech off these fillers.

Silence is a speaker’s best friend. Don’t be afraid to stop talking and allow “quiet” to engulf the room. It’s a clever idea to give your audience some time to process, as people cannot process words as quickly as they are spoken.

Learn to constantly “read” your audience. Know when it is time to either raise your voice, speak softly or add something dramatic.

Speaker Betsy Buckley says, “I pause. I lowered my voice. I’ll even whisper. For me, holding attention means being quieter. Since silence seems to encourage them to become more involved. Less from me often equals more from them.”

Krishna Kant Bajpai

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