Speak Up! V=Voice in d.e.l.i.V.e.r.y

This article is part 5 of a series using the acronym D.E.L.I.V.E.R.Y. and next will be E = Eye Contact.

Over the 35 years teaching public speaking, I developed 8-tips using the acronym D.E.L.I.V.E.R.Y. to quickly improve public speaking skills.  Sharing these tips so far, ‘D’ for Distractions, and ‘E’ for Extemporaneous, I=vocal interferences, and 4th is V=Vocal Variety.

Every public presenter should consider these voice factors: 1). tone; 2) volume/projection; 3). rate; 4). pitch; 5). cadence;6). breathing control; and 7). I’ll present additional tips.

1). TONE.  Extemporaneous means having a conversational sound, the 2nd factor in D.E.L.I.V.E.R.Y.  Inexperienced speakers can sound stilted, stiff, read or flat, memorized, unsure or stumbling.  The elements of good tone include:

1a> Projection – if the audience cannot hear you, the speech is worthless! Speaking loud enough so that your whole audience can hear you throughout the presentation is crucial.  However, sustained projection can be difficult.  You may feel awkward to project loud because your voice should be TOO loud in your own ears.  If the room has other noises (people talking, music, dishes/food service, etc.) then you may need a microphone or be forced to project even louder. Another issue is clarity.  Enunciation means all of your words are heard clearly.  Your content becomes mumbled and unintelligible if you do not maintain loud-enough projection. Your goal is to enunciate clearly via sustained projection.

1b> Rate/Pace – speech fright might cause you to speak too fast without pauses. Your goal is to speak at a normal conversational rate because constant content without pauses is hard to follow. It also doesn’t allow time for the audience to think about what you are saying.

1c> Breathing (vocal quiver) – When someone is nervous, they usually breathe fast and short, not deep diaphragm-level breaths. Breathing too fast can cause the speaker’s presentation to be delivered too fast, and can trigger a vocal quiver.  Breathing deeply can control your rate and lower the chances of a vocal shake. Below is an exercise control your breathing on stage:

  • Before your speech find out how long it takes to release your breath fully. Take a deep breath and count the release time. For most people, it’s 6 to 8 seconds.
  • Begin your speech in silence. While doing this, look around at the audience.  Then take a deep breath and slowly release it.
  • Take one more breath and then say your first sentence, controlling the release at 6 to 8 seconds.
  • At the end of the first sentence, pause strategically.  The audience isn’t watching you breathe or waiting. Instead you have non-verbally asked them to think about your first words and you can sneak in another deep diaphragm breath.
  • Continuing to speak, pause and breathe between each sentence or concept.  This helps achieve a natural, conversational, and easy-pace flow.  During your presentation, force yourself to speak at this calmed rate by taking deep breaths and strategic pauses.

1d> Pitch is the highs or lows of your vocal tone, such as operatic or baritone rich.  Baritone voices can be unpleasantly loud, and higher pitches can be shrill which can create sustained listening difficulty.  A microphone can help modulate pitch by reducing yelling.

1e> Variety occurs when someone’s rate, pitch, volume and tone all change naturally throughout the speech.  A “monotone” occurs when there’s no variety with rate, pitch or volume.  An overly-practiced, bored sound occurs if there is isn’t vocal variety.

2.  Cadence is a musical term meaning rhythm or beat. It is also a “sing-song” speaking error.  An example is an airline announcement “thank you for flying with us”.

Cadence occurs when someone over-practices, memorizes their presentation, or is simply reading, creating a bored-sounding sing-song.  Memorization or frequent delivery of the same content can contribute, causing “flat” unenthusiastic, bored and unauthentic delivery.

Some people mistakenly think cadence sounds good.  I strongly disagree. The problem with cadence is it impedes a conversation tone (the E in D.E.L.I. V. E.R.Y. covered 2nd in the series). Instead of ‘just talking to the audience’, cadence can seem as if the speaker is talking “AT” vs “TO” or with the audience.  Because cadence is commonly used with children, it can be perceived as condescending, ‘know-it-all’, or speaking ‘down’ to others.  Cadence can cause people to not like you, but they may not know why!

Correcting cadence may include not presenting the content in the same order, inviting variations such as audience participation, or changing the content to keep it fresh.

3.  Avoiding these to help your voice:

  • 3a > Milk can cause congestion over your vocal chords and can cause an annoying clearing-of-the-throat.
  • 3b> Carbonated beverages can cause throat dryness.  The carbonated bubbles dry air-space over your vocal chords resulting in a dry throat.  It might also cause you to burp.
  • 3c> Alcohol can also cause dryness to your voice and is much harsher.  Vocal moisture is wicked away by the alcohol, resulting in a dry and scratchy throat.
  • 3d> Menthol, often used in lozenge form (i.e., Halls) are often misused.  Most people use menthol for every throat condition.  When one has cold-caused congestion, this is the only reason to use menthol.  On a normal throat, the effect as harsh as alcohol.  Menthol products create excessive dryness which further strains the throat.  At worst it can cause laryngitis by stripping away necessary vocal lubrication.

4>  Use these to help your voice:

  • 4a> Lemon isnature’s healing way to safely remove congestion. Ingestible pharmacy-grade oilscan help too, such as Doetera Peppermint.
  • 4b> Honey is nature’s voice lubricator.  Honey helps the mouth retain moisture and bathes the vocal chords soothingly.
  • 4c> Hot watercan calm a sore throat.  Logically adding honey can be soothing, or lemon will help relieve congestion.
  • 4d> Throat Lozenges(i.e., Ludens) are hard candy made of corn syrup and flavors, making them portable moisturizing cubes that lubricate a dry throat.
  • 4e> “Sea Salt”can help heal.  Mixed into tolerably warm water, gargling can heal a sore throat.

Anyone can become a good speaker, but not by accident. Speakers who control their voice, increase their expert perception.  Speakers should avoid cadence (a singsong) so they sound authentic, natural and extemporaneous (the E in D.E.L.I.V.E.R.Y).  A speech that cannot be heard is worthless, so be sure you are loud enough for everyone to hear, which is usually loud to your own ears.  You also will want to control your breathing so that you can speak at a natural, easy pace.  Support your voice quality with lemon, honey and hot water for optimal functioning.

This article is part 5 of a series using the acronym D.E.L.I.V.E.R.Y. and next will be E = Eye Contact. I look forward to hearing how this content helped you. Feel free to reach out to me with your ideas or accessing my public speaking training.