The Art of Speaking  

The importance of vocal variety in public speaking

Vocal variety

YouTube Wade Paterson

Vocal variety, which is the ability to change the volume and tone of your speech to emphasize certain words or sentences, is the underdog of public speaking skills.

When used well, vocal variety can turn a good speech into a great speech. If you think about the greatest speech you’ve ever heard, it likely included a range of vocal variety.

On the other hand, a lack of vocal variety can turn a bad speech into a terrible speech. For example, think about the last time you listened to someone speak for a significant length of time in a monotone. It probably put you to sleep, or at the very least you would’ve found it difficult to concentrate.

In this month’s column, I will break down three ways you can inject vocal variety into your next speech.

Tip 1 – Turn Up the Volume

Perhaps the most obvious thing that comes to mind when you think of vocal variety is raising your voice to make an impact.

If you’re talking about something very exciting in your speech, you should raise your voice to match that excitement. If you’re telling a story that involves a person yelling, you should actually yell to allow the audience to become more immersed in the story.

Raising the decibel level not only adds texture to the speech, but it also has the ability to recapture the audience’s attention. Humans have incredibly short attention spans, so it’s unlikely the audience will be completely focused throughout your entire speech. But if you unexpectedly raise your voice at a strategic time in your speech, it will recapture the attention of your audience.

Tip 2 – Turn Down the Volume

A powerful – but less used – vocal variety skill is to soften your voice.

The idea of this can be scary because it requires a level of vulnerability; however, depending on the context of your speech, it can have a bigger impact on your audience than raising your voice because it is less common.

As an example, if your speech is about a sad subject matter, try lowering your voice and introduce lengthened pauses at key moments. Chances are, your audience will connect deeply with this tactic and you won’t lose their attention.

Tip 3 – Do Something Unique

One of my favourite speeches of all time is a TED Talk titled “If I should have a daughter” by Sarah Kay. The first three minutes and 40 seconds of her speech consists of spoken-word poetry. As soon as the poem concludes, the audience gives Sarah a standing ovation (even though her speech continues for another 18 minutes).

Doing something unique – such as singing or reciting a poem – is a high-risk, high-reward endeavour that, when done right, can transform a great speech into a legendary speech.

If you are someone who is musically gifted, try introducing a few lines of a song into your next speech. If you are a member of a Toastmasters club and are used to giving many speeches, try incorporating a poem into your next speech. While the concept might be scary, this variation from the norm is sure to capture your audience’s attention.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel here.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Wade Paterson is an award-winning Toastmaster who is passionate about Impactful Communication.

His columns and accompanying YouTube videos are focused on helping others become more confident public speakers and communicators.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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