Have you ever considered what you sound like when you give a presentation to work colleagues or at a conference? Unless you’re a public speaking wizard, most of us have to deal with a certain amount of nerves when addressing an audience, particularly in a professional setting. Nerves can adversely affect your voice, constraining your vocal cords and affecting your delivery. Similarly, adopting a monotone pitch to control your voice and convey your information as clearly as possible can make your presentation boring or uncomfortable to sit through.
Engaging your audience during a presentation is a difficult enough art to master without having to deal with voice issues at the same time. This week, we share four tips to help you prepare for your next work presentation by unlocking the power of a clear and confident voice:
WARM UP YOUR VOICE EFFECTIVELY
Just like any other muscle, to get the most out of your voice you need to warm it up adequately beforehand. For actors, singers, and other performers, the foundation of good voice work is always the breath. Instead of breathing shallowly and high in your chest, focus on breathing deeply from your diaphragm. This will not only physically help you to relax but also ensures that your voice remains strong and supported. You should also try to stay hydrated before your presentation (no, coffee doesn’t count!) – not only will your voice be easier to use but you run less risk of injury through overuse.
For a quick vocal warmup, take some deep breaths, yawn a few times, and recite some tongue twisters to wake up your mouth and vocal cords. If you want the full experience, check out this comprehensive body and vocal warmup for actors.
SPEAK CLEARLY AND CONFIDENTLY
In one of our previous blogs, we shared some methods to help you become a more confident presenter, including the importance of practicing and focusing on your audience instead of your own performance. Confidence is not only conveyed through posture and knowledge of your material, but also through the voice. Speaking softly or too quickly, leaving long pauses, or using too many upward inflections at the end of your sentences can convey a sense of uncertainty to your audience, suggesting that you don’t understand or believe in your own presentation. Making the effort to enunciate and speak clearly shows that you are engaged with both your material and your audience, and can help to hold the interest of your listeners far more effectively than trying to get it over with as quickly as possible.
CONSIDER YOUR VOLUME AND PITCH
Depending on the size of the presentation space and your audience, you may need to project your voice in order to be heard. Keep in mind that there is a difference between shouting and projecting – sheer volume doesn’t always make a presentation more compelling. A tip for projecting is to focus on the last row of your audience or back wall of the presentation space and imagine your voice bouncing off them. If you are doing a remote presentation or using a microphone, then you have more freedom to play with your volume. Raising your voice or even lowering it for a particularly important point can help refocus or sharpen your audience’s attention.
Pitch, or register, is another important aspect of your voice to consider when presenting. Basically, pitch refers to how high or deep your voice is. By modulating our pitch, we can communicate confidence, gravitas, humour, excitement, and a range of other emotions. Don’t be afraid to use variations in the pitch of your voice – it can make your presentation feel more conversational, inspiring, and engaging in comparison to a monotone delivery. Altering your pitch as you change topics or introduce crucial points are also useful audio cues for your audience. To learn more about harnessing the potential of your voice including its timbre and prosody, check out this great TED Talk from sound expert Julian Treasure on how to speak so that people want to listen.
FOCUS ON STORYTELLING
Humans love listening to stories. It’s how we learn from each other and entertain each other, and we’ve been doing it for millions of years. The stress of delivering an important work presentation can make us forget that we’re still only talking to people. The terrifying mass of eyes and judgment called an audience is in fact just a collection of interested humans who have come together to learn something from you. So, tell them a story! Storytelling keeps audiences immersed and invested in what you have to say. If you use personal anecdotes, utilise classic narrative structures, and always leave them wanting more, we guarantee that your presentation will be memorable.
Feeling empowered to create and deliver your best presentation yet? Download our free Presentation Preparation eBook to delve further into the boundless potential of PowerPoint!