Are your presentations heard and listened to?
Sitting through a presentation where the speaker can barely be heard or is uninteresting to listen too is not enjoyable for an audience. No matter the situation there are two goals you need to achieve with your voice when you deliver a presentation. You need to ensure that you are heard and your voice is interesting to listen to.
It goes without saying that for your presentation to be effective you need to ensure that it is heard and understood by your audience. This means that your volume and the rate at which you speak are appropriate for your audience.
The volume at which you speak will be influenced by a number of factors, such as the size of the audience, the size of the room, and the amount of background noise you have to combat while you are presenting. You will need your voice to be heard comfortably by the people in the back of the room, without the people in the front feeling that you are shouting. If this is unable to be achieved comfortably – find a microphone; your audience and your throat will thank you for it!
When you practise your speech, and as you prepare the room in the minutes leading up to your presentation see what background noise can be minimised or eliminated. And ensure the distance between yourself and your audience is minimised. This obviously reduces the distance your voice needs to travel to reach all of your audience allowing you speak at a more natural level.
The speed at which you say the words will greatly influence the effectiveness of your presentation. Too fast and your audience will miss the point of what your presenting to them because they are working too hard to hear and process what you are saying to them. If your speaking rate is too slow your audience will get bored and start to think about other issues rather than the presentation you are sharing with them.
The most appropriate speaking rate for you will be influenced by several elements. For speakers who are nervous the tendency is to speed up their speaking rate. Whereas some, more experienced, speakers excessively slow their speaking rate down to boring levels. A rough guide is to speak at a rate of 100-120 words per minute. However, if you hare presenting a topic that is completely new to your audience, or you have a strong accent you will need to speak at a slightly slower rate than normal to allow your audience to digest what you are saying.
It is important to be heard, but to be really successful you want to ensure that your voice makes your presentation interesting. This is achieved through utilising your pitch, the tone of your voice, and by varying all of the elements discussed.
To a large extent the pitch of your voice is outside of your control. Nature has provided you your voice. However you need to be conscious of your natural pitch. If it is excessively higher or lower than the pitch of most other voices you hear you should try and adjust it when you deliver a presentation. Target a comfortable pitch that is comfortable for your audience to listen to, and importantly comfortable for you to deliver.
The tone of your voice communicates how you feel about your subject. Recall your childhood years and your mother calling you to the dinner table. The tone she used when she called your name let you know if she was happy, frustrated or angry with you. The tone you utilise to say individual words or phrases allows you to communicate more to your audience. This is an important tool in speaking as it allows you to keep your audience interested in what you are presenting and allows you to convey meaning to the words you use.
As you practise your presentations try experimenting with your tone at different points to see what impact it has on the presentation, and how it can alter the meaning of different words and phrases.
All of the tools and techniques discussed here will help you. But to keep your audiences really interested in your presentation you will need to vary each of them. You will need to vary the volume and the rate to emphasise key phrases. Similarly varying the pitch and tone will enable your audience to understand the essential aspects of your presentation. Fast or slow, high or low, each has a place in the delivery of your presentation. You cannot deliver an entire presentation in an excited tone – your audience will not keep up. Look at all the vocal delivery aspects covered here and ensure that you vary them throughout your delivery.
It is important to be heard and listened to. By being effective with your voice you will be heard. But, for you to influence your audiences you need to be interesting. In the corporate environment there are many presentations that are heard, but there are precious few that are listened to. When you apply what has been covered above your presentations will be heard and listened too.