Public Speaking – 5 Tips for Using Your Voice Effectively

In public speaking, using your voice effectively can help you communicate your message clearly to your audience.  Voice is an important component of your non-verbal communications, or body language, and can express a wide range of meaning and emotion. 

Your voice is especially important during phone calls, when it's the only component you have to communicate your words. And your voice is also crucial on video calls when likely you are seated, so your use of other body language components, such as of gestures and movement,is limited. 

The following five tips will help you use your voice more effectively:

1.     Increase Your Volume

Your volume should be loud enough so that people can hear you easily.  How loud depends on the room size, the number of people in the audience, whether or not you are using a microphone, the acoustics, etc. 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. 

2.     Match Your Pace to Your Audience

You have to speak slowly enough so your audience can understand and digest what you are saying – how slowly is "slowly enough" depends on your audience.  For example, if you're presenting in a language that is not native to the audience or if you're presenting new, complex information, you should speak slower than you usually do.  Record yourself speaking or have someone listen to you practicing the presentation, so you can get another perspective on whether you're speaking too fast to be understood.

3.     Use Pauses

Using pauses gives you a chance to catch your breath and means you're less likely to use pause words like "um" and "ah." Pausing also gives your audience a chance to catch up with you and absorb your meaning.  For example, you can pause in between sections of your presentation so the audience can reflect on what you just said and pause when you bring up a new slide so the audience has a chance to read it.  You can also pause before an important word or sentence to clue the audience that they should pay attention, as in "I'm proud to announce that the winner of our contest is [pause]…Jennifer Gonzales."

4.     Vary Your Tone

A monotone voice will bore the audience and make it difficult for them to understand your meaning and figure out which words are most important.  Instead, vary your tone to keep their attention and communicate your exact meaning.  A good practice exercise is to repeat the name of a loved one, such as a spouse or child, and each time you say it, vary your tone to convey different meanings.  For example, you might say "Kamal?" [is that you I just heard come in the house?] or "Kamal!" [hurry up and get in here and help me kill this bug!] or "Kamal…" [sigh, I don't know why you can't pick your socks up off the floor…] The variation in tone makes all the difference in your meaning. 

5.     Match Your Tone to Your Words

As with other components of non-verbal communications, your voice should match the words that you are saying.  For example, if you say, "I am honored to be in such distinguished company," but your tone conveys sarcasm, the audience will believe your voice rather than your words.  Be mindful of whether your voice tone is conveying energy, fatigue, boredom or impatience.

Following these five tips will allow you to use your voice effectively, whether in person or virtually, which will help you connect to your audience and communicate your meaning.