Your voice has the ability to convey an incredible range of meaning and emotion when you present. It's an important part of your non-verbal communications, or body language, and can help you can communicate your message clearly and effectively to your audience. (And if you’re presenting over the phone or via webinar, your voice is the only element of body language that the audience has.)
Avoid these five common mistakes in order to tap into the full power of your voice:
Voice Mistake #1 - Speaking Too Fast
How fast is too fast? It depends. You have to speak slowly enough so you can enunciate your words and the audience can understand you. Slow down even more if you're speaking in a language that is not native to the audience or if you're presenting new, complex information. Your rate tends to increase when you're nervous, so be aware of your nerves.
Voice Mistake #2 - Speaking Nonstop
While it’s important to speak fluently and have your words flow easily from one sentence to the next, speaking nonstop means that you will run out of breath by the end of the sentence and your voice will sound strangled as it trails off. Instead, use pauses to catch your breath and give your audience a chance to catch up. You can also pause before an important word to clue the audience that they should pay attention; for example, "the results this year have been [pause]… excellent." Pausing to take a breath also means you're less likely to use pause words like "um" and "ah."
Voice Mistake #3 - Speaking Too Softly
How soft is too soft? If your audience has to struggle to hear you, you're speaking too softly. You also need to speak more loudly than usual if you're in a large room or any size room with poor acoustics. If you have the opportunity to use a microphone, use it. As long as it is working properly and you have practiced using it, a microphone can make it easier for the audience to hear you. As you increase your volume, it may feel like you're shouting. Chances are, you're not, but to be sure, you can record yourself or ask an audience member for an honest assessment of your volume.
Voice Mistake #4 - Speaking in a Monotone
A monotone robs your voice of inflection and doesn’t allow you to emphasize different words and emotions. Using inflection in your voice can convey your precise meaning to the audience. For example, your voice inflection can convey the difference between these two sentences - "I love Brussel sprouts! [bring me a big plate of them!]" and "I love Brussel sprouts? [are you kidding? I hate them!]"
Voice Mistake #5 – Speaking in a Tone that Does Not Match Your Words
As with other elements of non-verbal communications, your voice should match the words that you are saying. If you say "I know this is going to be a great conference," but your voice conveys boredom or sarcasm, the audience will be confused and may believe what they hear in your voice voice rather than your words.
If you avoid these five common voice mistakes, you'll be able to harness the power of your voice to connect to your audience and communicate your meaning.