How to Connect Using The Power of Your Voice

by Nina Meehan

Have you ever watched someone deliver a talk and noticed that you were listening very intently and never feeling bored? What was that person doing? What’s the difference between the person who is leading a meeting where you are actively participating and engaged and the person leading the meeting where you are simultaneously checking your email, slack and thinking about what to have for lunch?   EXPRESSIVENESS! Now before you close the browser where you are reading this blog because the idea of being expressive is either terrifying or repulsive to you…hang on and let’s talk about what that can mean for you.

Bringing expression to your talks, presentations and meetings does not mean turning yourself into a muppet. It does mean, using the tools that you already have at your disposal to keep everyone listening to you engaged and hanging on your every word.

What Does Your Audience Need to Know?

The root of expressiveness that feels organic and easy in a talk or meeting  is understanding what you are trying to say and why. If you know that your audience needs to walk away understanding that “sales this past quarter were low, but we are optimistic that it will grow by 20% because of our new campaign,” you now know what words and stats are the most important for them to hear.  So, as you prep for your meeting, go through your notes and underline the words that will help tell that story most effectively. Then, when you are presenting, those underlines are your reminder to emphasize those particular words. How do you emphasize words?  Keep Reading!

Expressive Voice

The human voice is incredibly versatile.  At any moment, you can adjust:

  1. Pitch
  2. Volume
  3. Tone
  4. Pace

I talk more about each of these elements in individual posts (pitchvolumetonepace), but for right now, just know that you can play with all of these elements.  

Pitch —Try raising or lowering your pitch on just those underlined words that you identified above. 

Volume —Try varying your volume by dropping into a quieter voice on sentences when you really want people to listen. (Kindergarten Teachers and Librarians understand the power of quiet.) But make sure you don’t drop so low that the people listening can’t hear you at all.

Tone — Notice the difference between how you would tell your dog to “sit!” versus how you might greet your grandmother on the phone. That is tone and you can choose what kind of tone you use every time you speak. How do you want to come across in your talk or meeting? Like a sergeant giving orders? A parent soothing a child? Practice your opening in different tones to find what feels comfortable. 

Pace — How fast or slow you talk is also a choice. Varying your pace throughout a talk is a great way to help keep people’s attention. Slow down for moments that you really want people to hear. Speed up if you want to keep the energy moving through a section that has a lot of details.