3 key contrasts to keep the voice alive and engaging
Do you need a lovely voice to be a good presenter?
Do you need to have a varied and interesting voice? – Definitely ‘Yes’.
Not all of us will be born with a beautiful, rich and sonorous voice.
However we can all learn make our voice more interesting.
I remember listening to a seminar led by a person with a very edgy voice.
The accent was quite harsh and initially it did not sound like a voice that I would want to listen to for 90 minutes.
However, very soon I was no longer aware of the timber of the voice because firstly, the content was so interesting (which of course goes to show that if you have something worth talking about, you are already well on the way) but secondly, the speaker paid particular attention to varying the pace, the emphasis and the pitch of their voice as they were speaking, thus creating great vocal variety and contrast, making it very easy and stimulating to listen to.
Having spent many years as a professional cellist, I am very aware of the importance of sound.
Our voice is our instrument and we need to work hard to keep it interesting.
Sometimes a beautiful voice can actually be a disadvantage, if the listener becomes so mesmerised by the beauty of the sound that they start to miss the words, which of course for a speaker or a trainer is never ideal!
For a bedtime story a sonorous voice may be wonderful.
However the presenter’s first job is to keep people awake!
And that will be achieved through varying the voice.
And varying the voice is usually a conscious decision.
There is no point in having valuable, stimulating content if everyone has fallen asleep listening to you.
Many is the musician who has to say to a colleague or pupil:
‘I know you think you are ‘doing’ the expression marks, but I can’t hear them!’
This is why speakers talk about the 3 ‘P’s:
Pitch, Pace and Power.
I think of them very visually.
(Without wishing to get too mathematical on you,)
I have an image of an X, Y, Z axis graph.
In my graph the Z axis represents ‘Pitch’.
My voice can go up and it can go down.
The Y axis represents ‘Power’.
I can speak louder and I can speaker quieter.
The X axis represents ‘Pace’.
I can slow down… and even stop!......And I can speed up and build to a climax.
My neutral voice floats nicely in the middle, but if it does no more than that, it will become monotonous and increasingly hard to listen to.
(And we have all heard that flat colourless voice, that lacks any variation and regardless of how interesting the subject matter may be, still sends you into a trance.)
So when I am standing in front of people I imagine my voice floating next to me.
Is it moving or has it got stuck?
I consciously make sure it is going up, going down; going forward, going backwards; and side to side.
It is important to remember that what may sound interesting and varied in your own head, may not project so well, and the larger the group, or the larger the space, the more you need to inject extra variety into your voice.
Tips to keep your voice alive
1. Stand well; relaxed, balanced so you can feel your voice and whole body supported through the floor
2. Don’t grab hold of anything, whether it is a lectern or a page full of notes
3. Use your gestures to support and even lead the direction of your voice.
So the key element of an effective voice
is not necessarily tone and beauty,
it is more likely to be contrast and variety.
And that is a conscious decision, one that you can control.