When it comes to the importance of vocal variety, the teacher from the old Charlie Brown cartoon comes to mind. If you haven’t seen this iconic program, whenever the teacher was speaking to the class, it was characterized by an inaudible “wah wah” sound that can best be described as droning on. This teacher clearly had not learned the importance of vocal variety. As a presenter, you must be sure you don’t fall into the same trap or your audience will tune you out, too.
Vocal variety speaks to the inflection of a speaker’s voice; in other words, it’s the variations that are made in order to change the pitch and tone of speech. For presenters, it’s the way you can tell your story through your voice which makes vocal variety an essential tool in your presentation toolbox.
Check out these 3 keys to mastering effective vocal variety.
Record the audio of your practice and presentation.
The only saving grace to a lack of vocal variety is compelling body language. If you are looking to master your vocal variety, you need to eliminate that from your feedback process so you can concentrate on your voice. By recording just the audio of your practice and presentation, you can quickly decipher the areas where you are excelling at vocal variety and the areas of your presentation where you need to focus on it. While you are listening to your audio recording, ask yourself, “If someone were playing this presentation on the radio in their car, would they change the station?” If believe the answer would be “yes,” put greater emphasis on your vocal variety to make your speech more interesting.
Write it into your notes.
As someone who struggles with vocal variety, I have gone so far as to write reminders into my notes. I think through each section of my presentation and what I would like my tone to communicate. Then, I add cues that are easy for me to recognize that will remind me to change my vocal inflections. An easy way to build in these reminders is to create a color-coded system where each color represents a different vocal tone. Then highlight your notes in that color to quickly remind yourself without adding extra words.
Practice it daily.
Just like any skill, vocal variety takes practice. By choosing to intentionally practice vocal variety in your daily life, you will develop muscle memory which will become second nature. After a conversation or interaction with another person, stop and think through what your vocal tone was communicating: did you use variety to create engagement, or was your tone flat and boring? The more you practice, the more likely it is to play out when you are delivering your presentation.
Vocal variety is crucial piece of every presentation. It keeps your audience engaged and ensures that your message is heard, but it doesn’t always come naturally. Vocal variety requires intentional and repetitive practice. Now that you are armed with these 3 keys, you are well on your way to becoming a master of vocal variety.
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