Saturday, 9 June 2012

Effective use of your Voice in your Business Presentations


No amount of speechmaking brilliance will enable you to make successful business presentations if you have not carefully prepared your presentation. 

 The content of your presentation should be logical, persuasive and full of relation to your audience to ensure that it holds their attention.

Equipped with such a carefully prepared presentation you can however ensure that your presentation makes the maximum impact if you work hard at delivering it to the maximum of your ability.

Audiences do not expect that your presentation has to be delivered in 'Obamic' tones or that your voice will rival that of the great orators.  They will however expect to be able to hear you and to understand clearly the words you have so carefully prepared. 

 They will also expect you to deliver your presentation as though you really believe in the message you wish to put across. 

Here are some basic techniques which you can practise which will help you to meet these requirements of your audience.
The SOUND of your VOICE
Do you know how your voice comes across to your audience? 

Most people do not since day to day they we hear their own voice as it reverberates through the bones in their head, whilst others hear it straight from your mouth. 

It is for this reason that you may be surprised when you hear your own voice recorded on a video or voicemail message. 

When you recover from your initial surprise you will probably find that whilst it may be a little higher or lower than you expect, it is in fact a perfectly acceptable voice to listen to. 

Out on video MP1015D Momentum Pictures
 includes real speeches by King George  VI
Certainly you will be able to improve it but it is only in very rare cases that a persons' voice is such a serious handicap that they need to seek professional help from elocution teachers or speech therapists.


Many more people speak too quietly than speak too loudly in a presentation.  If you project your voice insufficiently not only may your message be lost on your audience but it will also convey a lack of confidence on your part. 

 Practise speaking in a large empty room.  Ask a friend or a colleague to stand at the back of the room and tell you whether you can be clearly heard.  If necessary keep forcing yourself to raise the volume even though it may seem unnatural to you. 

 So often delegates on  courses tell me that as they raise the volume it seems unnatural to them.

 They firmly believe that it seems as though they are shouting.  Yet the rest of the delegates always reassure them that that is not the case and that they are only projecting their voice in a way which makes it easy for the audience to hear them.

Is your VOICE Clear ?

Volume is very important but it must be matched by the clarity of the words being spoken.  The biggest handicap to clarity of speech is failure to work your mouth fully as the words are projected. (Tongue teeth and lips )

Speak each word clearly and don't allow them to trail off at the end of your sentences.

  There will often be people in your audience for whom English is not their first language and for their benefit every word must be as clear as possible.  If you work on the assumption that there is at least one such person in every audience you will soon find that the clarity of your speech is greatly increased.


Nothing is more likely to reduce an audience to boredom than a presentation delivered in a monotonous voice. 

 If you practise changing the tone of your voice you will find that your audiences will respond more positively to your presentations. 

Raising the pitch of your voice  convey your sense of excitement.

 Letting it fall if  you want to make a serious point. 

 Initially you may think that it sounds over-dramatic but your audience will find that it adds to the impact your presentation makes on them. 
PACE of your VOICE

Just as a monotonous voice can lull an audience to sleep so can a voice which is one-paced. 

 There will be passages in your presentations which require you to speed up your delivery:  others where you should deliver your words more slowly.  You will probably find that as you seek more inflection in your voice you will automatically be introducing changes of pace for the two are very closely linked.


Emphasis can be used to stress a particularly important section of your presentation.  There will be some words and phrases which it is essential for your audience to appreciate and you will help them to do this if you give added weight to them. 

 Often you will find in a book that words have been put in italics to make the meaning clearer for the reader.  Your audience will not have a script so your voice must do this for them.

PAUSE in your speech.

You will be aware of how much work you are putting in to making your presentation.  Remember that your audience will also be working hard as it requires considerable concentration to keep listening throughout a presentation.

  Make it easier for them:  allow them an occasional pause in the presentation so that they can reflect on what they have heard and prepare themselves for what is to come.
The pause can be used to give extra impact to the sentence being delivered and it is a very effective way of holding the attention of your audience.

No matter how well you have prepared there will be times when things do not go as you have planned.  It may be that you have forgotten to turn over a confidence card, or that you have temporarily mislaid a visual aid.  It is at such times that you should pause, collect your thoughts and find your place, before resuming your presentation.  All too often in such situations the presenter will fill that moment by apologising and telling the audience of the problem.  Remember that though that period of uncertainty may seem like an eternity to you, the audience is extremely unlikely to even notice that anything was wrong - unless you tell them!

EMOTION in your voice.

These basic techniques will add greatly to the impact which your presentation makes. 

 Some presenters do, of course, ignore all these techniques and achieve considerable success.  The reason is that they put such enthusiasm and emotion into their delivery that they totally captivate their audiences.
In suggesting that you put emotion into your presentations we are not asking you to tear out your hair or burst into tears. 

But if you are telling your audience that the future for your company is exciting, you must sound as though you are excited or there is little likelihood that they will be.
  Alternatively if your message is that the future is bleak unless your recommendations are implemented your delivery must convey this sense of gravity.


Be aware of your voice and constantly seek to use it to its best advantage.  Practise and self-criticism will be invaluable aids in improving your delivery.  If, however, you find it difficult to achieve a satisfactory level of volume practise with some breathing exercises.  When you are speaking to an audience you will need to use more air from your lungs so that as you project the words through your windpipe and out through your mouth they will carry greater force.

Tongue twisters are an excellent way of increasing the clarity of your speech. It is best to practise the tongue twisters that trip you up rather than just keep to the ones you know and can do easily.

 Here is link to a great site on tongue twisters

 Look to add more variety by using a greater range of your voice even in everyday conversations. 

 If you ever read bedtime stories to young children read them in a lively entertaining way which will add both to their enjoyment of the story and to the variety of your delivery.

If there are no kids to hand  you can practise at home reading out aloud . Get a copy of Aesop's Fables. These are short tales that read aloud well. 

Penguin Classics ISBN 0-140-44649-4    1998 translated by Olivia and Robert Temple.

Do not be afraid to record your presentations on your DVD camera .  Read your presentations into the recorder on your smart phone and keep searching for greater impact in your vocal delivery.  As you listen to the recordings you will notice how quickly your voice improves.

You may not see yourself as a great speaker.  It may even be that you consider yourself to be someone who naturally has an uninteresting voice. 

 Don't accept that verdict too easily, stretch yourself, practise the techniques and it may be that you surprise yourself by finding that you are capable of delivering your presentations with vigour and variety.

Provided that all the preparation has been done you will be increasing your chances of making successful business presentations.

Related Links

Presentation Skills


  • Fascinating study. covering a wide range of issue associated with the voice. Quite a provocative polemic on the misuse of Mehrabian's data and its underestimation of the role of voice (7%). pages 209-212

The Human Voice - the story of a remarkable talent by Anne Karpf  published by Bloomsbury ISBN 0-7475-7649-1  2006

  • Interesting read - new age style- insight into how actors work their voices
The Alchemy of the  Voice by Stewart Pearce  ISBN 0-340-82622-3
2005 Publisher Hodder and Stoughton

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