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  • Bruce Rule

Voice Is a Powerful Tool in Public Speaking

Updated: Apr 3



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Voice is a Powerful Tool in Public Speaking

 

How important the tone of your voice is when public speaking is a matter of academic debate. But there no dispute that your tone is a powerful tool when it comes to being an effective communicator.

 

Your voice can influence your message through various ways, including pitch, volume, and pace. Just as the proper use of eye contact, as discussed here and here, will help you become more persuasive and a better public speaker, the way you use your voice can also help you.

 

I suspect that everyone who has ever had a dog or cat for pet has done the following at least once. In a sweet, soothing voice, they would say “Oh, you are so naughty,” or some such, and the animal would respond positively because it only understands the tone of the voice, not the content. (If you have never tried this, and you have a pet nearby, go ahead and test it out.)


Humans can also be influenced in a similar manner, especially when we don’t know the language. Even when we do know the language, a speaker’s vocal expression has a major influence.

 

In 1967, two UCLA studies were published that indicated tone of voice contributed almost 40% to how much a listener liked the person who was speaking when the subject was feelings and attitudes. Over the decades since researchers have said those studies had some minor flaws, and subsequent studies have shown that the percentage may be different.

 

But none showed that tone of voice was insignificant. The argument is over how much of an influence your vocal skills can have when you speak.

 

So of you want to become a better speaker you must learn to use your voice properly.

 

“Voice of God”

 

Here’s an extreme example of why this is so important. A woman in the tech industry approached me because was having difficulties at her new job. She worked in the compliance area, and her responsibility was making sure that the software being developed complied with the proper security guidelines. Her issue was that she was soft-spoken with a higher-pitched voice, and her comments would get drowned out by the male engineers’ voices at meetings.

 

We worked on her pitch first. Pitch is the highness and lowness of the voice. It is an unfortunate fact that at least in the U.S. that a lower-pitched voice is seen as more authoritative. There’s a reason why voiceovers in television commercials tend to have lower pitches. Think of how deep a voice the actor James Earl Jones has. Is it any wonder it’s been called the “voice of God?”

 

So the first thing we did was have her work on trying to use the lower range of her voice. It is not easy to change your natural pitch, but with awareness you can make sure you use a lower pitch when you need to. Then we worked on her volume by having her practice talking to someone across the room. We kept bringing her volume up notch by notch, which was not easy because she felt as if she were shouting. She wasn’t. She was just moving outside her comfort zone.

 

While there were other things we worked on to help her in meetings, she reported that the change in the way she used her voice was very useful and that the engineers did pay more attention when she spoke.

 

If it can help her, it can help you.

 

In the next few posts we are going to look at pitch, volume, and pace more closely, and I will share some exercises and tips on how you can use them more effectively.

 

Note: Please feel free to comment on this post or ask any question about public speaking and I will address it in a blog post. If you want to discuss something privately, feel free to reach out to me at brule@rulecommunications.com

 

 

 

 

 

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