Angela DeFinis is an industry expert in professional public speaking.
As an author, speaker, consultant, and founder of DeFinis Communications, she has spent over twenty years helping business professionals communicate with greater poise, power, and passion.
Angela’s knowledge, skill and energy create an environment where every individual can fully discover the elegance and power of successfully communicating with others.
Her focus is on helping speakers do just one thing—Come Alive!
In this interview on voice power with Arte from Presentation Process, Angelashares her secrets to how you can use your voice can empower your presentations.
Arte: What impact does voice have on a presentation?
Angela: In any speaking situation, whether you are giving a formal presentation on the main stage, talking to a prospective client on the phone or casually chatting with a colleague, your voice plays an important role in the success of your communication.
Your voice can influence the clarity of your message, the level of engagement of your audience and your own personal sense of well being—if you know how to use it effectively. It takes awareness, knowledge and practice to hone your vocal power so that you can rely on your voice to represent and support you in a meaningful way.
Arte: Can you tell us a little more about voice power and its role in presentations?
Angela: Sure, your voice must accomplish three important jobs in any presentation.
- The first is called vocal clarity. Speaking clearly allows everyone in your audience to understand, at a very fundamental level, what you are saying. The skills that support vocal clarity include pronunciation, enunciation and volume.
- Next, is vocal variety, which keeps the voice interesting and engaging to the listener. Two skills that help with vocal variety are pitch and rate of speech.
- Finally, there’s vocal emphasis, which lets the audience know what you think is important and guides them to make the same judgment. It includes inflection and strategic pauses.
When used effectively and in combination, these skills help people deliver a message with poise, power and passion. My clients are subject matter experts. They are intensely passionate about their topics but often unable to express their passion because their voices have so little range and power.
This slide summarizes how to evaluate voice power in presentations:
Arte: Can you share a success story where voice empowered a presenter?
Angela: For example, I worked with a sales executive recently who faced this dilemma. He was speaking at his company’s annual worldwide kick-off meeting and wanted to motivate his sales force.
He had been with the company for a long time, had extensive knowledge of its products and services, and felt deep passion about the kinds of solutions they offered their customers. But he couldn’t show it. He was low key, a bit too informal and concerned about sounding “fake and insincere.”
Helping him adjust and improve his vocal skills (voice power) changed everything for him. When he stood up to speak at the meeting he put his skills to work and spoke with great pride and passion, and the sales force actually cheered!
I spend considerable time with my clients on vocal awareness and skill building. It pays to liberate and strengthen your voice.
Arte: Can you tell us a little more about how voice can move people to action?
Angela: Think about the voice power of people like John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King, Jr. The strength, power and certainty of their voice moved people to action.
These people had a powerful message and spoke from the heart. But each of them also had excellent vocal control so that the message was polished and refined. They are good examples of how the quality of a person’s voice demonstrates credibility and confidence.
People listen to speakers whose voice says, “I know this to be true,” “You can trust me,” “You can follow me.” A speaker’s voice is capable of moving others to action when it is used skillfully and deliberately and is congruent with the message. Vocal skills help shape a person’s message in such a way that motivates any audience to take action.
Arte: How does your voice reflect your confidence?
Angela: Your voice is the window to your confidence. I know it may sound odd to use a visual metaphor for sound but your audience “sees” you through your voice. Vocal tone, rate, rhythm and range either make it crystal clear to the audience that you know and believe what you’re talking about or that you have doubts about your message, your credibility and your ability to deliver it. When it comes to projecting confidence, the use of strong, blended vocal skills are critical.
If you want to come across as a confident speaker, slow down your speaking rate. The average rate of speech in a normal everyday conversation is about 250 words per minute. When speaking to a group, slow the rate down to 170 wpm. A slower, more deliberate rate of speech is powerful and convincing.
When you speak quickly, without pausing and with little vocal variety or emphasis, you come across nervous, uncomfortable and unprepared.
Your voice is the most powerful tool you have to convey your personal power.
When you take your time and mete out your words and syllables slowly and deliberately you give the audience a chance to listen to and absorb your message—telling them, “This is important; pay attention.” If you want to be perceived as a more powerful and confident presenter, slow your pace and pause often.
Arte: How can a presenter evaluate his or her own voice power?
Angela: The best way to evaluate your voice is to video or audio record yourself while you’re rehearsing or giving a presentation. Then, watch or listen to the recording, paying careful attention to your vocal skills.
To what degree have you achieved vocal clarity, vocal variety, and vocal emphasis?
Do you use vocal skills frequently, sometimes or never?
Do you pronounce words correctly but speak too fast, rarely pause or use pitch, or speak in a monotone?
Another option is to ask trusted colleagues, friends or family members for their feedback on your vocal skills and power.
Arte: What can a presenter do if he or she does not have a naturally powerful voice?
Angela: Few people come out of the womb with naturally powerful voices. The rest of us have to work on our vocal skills to develop voice control so that we sound more convincing and can convey our intended message. Once you have assessed the strengths and limitations of your voice, then it’s time for practice.
But since most of us are over scheduled to begin with, I recommend building your voice practice into your existing schedule. Look at the meetings and social events you already have on your calendar and assign one vocal skill to each meeting.
For example, practice your pitch at every weekly staff meeting, raise your volume when you speak on the phone or pause more during lunch or dinner conversations. When you weave these short practice sessions into your daily life you will practice more often and improve your skills with a lot less pain.
Arte: What are some simple exercises to strengthen a presenter’s voice?
Angela: There are numerous vocal exercises to improve voice power. The best one to use depends on the skills you want to develop. For example, to practice your pronunciation or enunciation, say tongue twisters such as “Red Leather, Yellow Leather” or “Paper Poppy” or “Baby Bubble.” You could also practice “over articulating” where you say each syllable clearly and precisely.
Read any type of short paragraph out loud, speaking each word slowly and carefully. Add force and power to different words, and pause after every second or third word. Don’t worry about context; just open your mouth wide and give extra value to each word so you say it dramatically, with force and power.
Arte: How can the presenter relax his/her throat before a presentation?
Angela: One of the best ways to keep your speaking voice in top shape is to stand tall with your weight balanced and breathe deeply, filling up your belly, chest and throat, and then exhaling slowly. This opens up your throat and relaxes your entire body, especially your vocal chords and enhances your voice power.
You can also try gentle humming of a simple song like, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.Additionally, drinking herbal tea with honey will ease any dryness in your throat.
Finally, avoid caffeine, alcohol, milk or other dairy products before speaking. Since the voice is the presenter’s number one tool, treating it with a little TLC will make any presentation stronger.
Arte: Thank you taking the time to provide us with these tips and insights on voice power.
Angela: You are welcome!
For additional resources and free articles visit the DeFinis Communications web site.
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