Your Vocal Power – volume, inflection and rate of speaking combined – can significantly impact your audience’s attention, interest in your message … and positive impression of you.
In our culture, we tend to interpret a soft-spoken voice as coming from a speaker lacking in confidence or credibility. Not good reactions for your audience to have about you. Even on a microphone, the soft-spoken voice delivers that weak impression loud and clear. It doesn’t matter if these reactions are valid or not – remember the Perception is Reality demon. If you sound weak to the audience – you are!
We are conditioned from birth to be quiet. How many bazillion times did someone tell you to be quiet, keep it down or use your ‘inside voice’? As adults, this conditioning creates an automatic volume-control monitor in your head. When you exceed that level, the little red light goes on and tells you to get quieter.
The problem for speakers is that monitor is pre-set for a one-on-one volume level. Even in a small meeting room, you are much farther away from the closest listener than in a normal conversation setting. So, to overcome this programming, ignore the little read light and Speak Up. When you do increase your volume, your audience really benefits:
- You’re easier to hear, especially over room noise, side conversations and outside distraction. The easier it is to hear you, the easier it is to listen to what you say.
- As your volume increases, so does your inflection or change in pitch. You don’t have any inflection when you whisper. When you speak up, you naturally add more vocal color and emphasis to your message delivery. That emphasis makes it easier for the audience to understand important points. And you’ll avoid speaking in a monotone – a major audience turn-off.
- As you speak up, you also slow down. You can’t talk fast AND loud. As you expend more energy on volume, you automatically slow down. That more audience-friendly pace makes it easier for them to process your message and keep up with you.
- Since audiences equate volume and vocal energy with credibility, speaking up is especially important for speakers who are smaller in stature or female. So, harness the power of the ‘Mom Voice’ or ‘Coach Voice’ so your audience is more confident in your message.
- Increasing volume also channels that nervous energy your body is generating more productively. You burn off those extra calories with vocal energy instead of nervous physical mannerisms. By breathing deeper, you also minimize some Presentation Anxiety symptoms because the extra oxygen helps relax you. Your audience sees and hears a more confident and credible speaker – they like that.
When I coach my clients, we always work on increasing volume. I often tell them to double their volume in practice exercises. This doesn’t mean shouting, just pumping more breath through your vocal cords so you sound louder. It takes some practice, but it’s worth the effort. When you’re practicing your presentations out loud, consciously increase your volume. See for yourself that it will slow you down and increase your natural inflection. Have several people sit in as a practice audience and ask for their reactions and feedback.
So, Speak Up to project more confidence, impact your results and energize your audience.