Is Your Voice Helping or Hurting You As a Presenter?

It’s pretty obvious that what you say in a presentation matters more than the way you say it. Right?

If you believe that, try reading the following short passages aloud. Speak them first in a flat monotone, then with expression, as if this is the most important thing you’ll say all year:

• “You may have heard that this company is washed up… finished. But I’m here to tell you: Acme Industries is going to win back our share of the industry. And as our sales force, you’re the only people who can make that happen!”

• “The United States is absolutely committed to preventing genocide–in this region or anywhere in the world.”

• “I love you.”

Notice any differences in the meaning or strength of your message as you spoke neutrally or with emotion?

Now try reading aloud the short sentence below. Emphasize the first word, using punch and raising your pitch. Now read the sentence aloud again, this time emphasizing the second word. Continue doing that until you’ve read the sentence aloud six times:

‘I didn’t give them those documents.”

You’ve just conveyed six different messages by vocally highlighting one word each time, haven’t you?

Both of these exercises–using emotional coloration and emphasizing words and phrases within a sentence–demonstrate a critically important point in public speaking: Your voice is one of your most powerful tools for persuading and influencing listeners.

In fact, no other presentation tool is capable of such infinite variety. And hardly anything in the way of content can match your voice for achieving subtle shades of meaning and intention.

Finding Your Honest Voice

So how can you achieve vocal expressiveness that will make your presentations more interesting, engaging, and influential?

Believe it or not, attaining a dynamic vocal presence is all about not doing something: trying to sound professional or working on becoming “an excellent public speaker.”

You’re already an effective speaker! Just listen to yourself in everyday situations when you’re actively engaged with what you’re talking about: the exciting movie you just saw, or the fascinating new person in your life.

In other words, when we’re not self-conscious about what we consider high-stakes speaking situations, we look and sound completely like ourselves. Our voices take on the coloration and natural qualities that reflect both who we are and our commitment to what we’re talking about. And such a person is always interesting to listen to. It’s only when we become self-conscious that we try to sound different: professional, expert, business-like, and so on.

And this strategy never works. Audience members aren’t interested in hearing a polished speaker so much as they want to listen to someone who’s genuinely interesting. And that means you: the person, in fact, who is ideally suited to give this presentation.

Have a Talk Instead of Giving a Speech

How do you combine that honest voice of yours with presentation effectiveness? It’s as simple as can be: you only need to remember to be conversational. Talk to your listeners instead of trying to give a speech, and you’ll come across as an honest and trustworthy presenter who’s worth hearing.

Spend some time, then, in learning how effectively you use your voice. Train your ear to listen to how you say things, not merely the information you’re imparting. Record yourself talking with friends (when you’re activated and not self-conscious, remember?), and listen to the results. Ask colleagues what they think of your vocal delivery. Once you have more knowledge from “outside your own head,” start working on improving your problem areas.

If you use evaluation instruments following your presentations, include questions dealing specifically with speech and voice issues. And if you really want to reach the next level, find yourself a first-class speech coach, preferably someone with a background in acting.

You’ll be discovering what your listeners already know about whether you’re an effective vocal communicator. It’s “must have” information for anyone who speaks in public.

Setting Out Your Presentation Slides for the Best Results

I like to use a few rules for my slides that I hope makes them more attractive and readable by the audience.

  1. The slide should have some level of symmetry or balance. For example if you have some bullets on the left maybe an image or diagram on the right to ‘balance’ the slide. Imagine a pivot in the middle of the slide and the words or images have weight – now will it fall to the right or left?
  2. Choose your colours wisely. Ask your self whether the colours go together and what the colour combination means. Do your colours look like the colours used in any brand that you know – this may be good or bad. It’s also good to keep some consistency across the slide pack. Using a different set of colours on each slide suggests that the slides have come from different origins. I am not a great lover of coloured fonts – but they can soften the impact of the writing. For example dark grey can look better than black. Dark blue is also effective and quite easy to read. Please avoid writing in red or green. Those of us who are colour blind just can’t read it. Even red on white is very difficult at a distance. This by the way is true if you are using a flip chart – put down the red pen and pick up the black or blue.
  3. Most people read slides from left to right. It is often best to place bullets on the left and supporting images on the right. When using a diagram and bullets you may like to swap this over. As the diagram/graph may be self explanatory and the bullets just pulling our some key points that if read first would not make sense.
  4. Best to leave off full stops at the end of bullets – it just looks messy and distracts the eye.
  5. Remember that you may be asked to print your slides so anything other than a white background uses lots of ink. The old style of yellow type on a blue background is indeed quite easy to read on a screen but now looks very dated and a good quality printed version is hard to create.
  6. Add automatic page numbering via the master – very helpful if you muddle up the printed slides as you are preparing for the big day. If you are presenting using a handout it is also much easier to ask your colleagues to turn to page seven, than to look for the page with the big graph and four bullets.
  7. To keep things simple it is often best to split the slide into three zones. These three zones will also help you in presenting the slide which we will come on to later. You don’t have to stick to this layout but it is a good place to start and seems to work quite well.
    • Top, where the strap line goes. The sentence that captures what the slide is all about.
    • The main part of the slide split into two or three areas vertical or horizontal areas for words and images
    • The bottom of the slide – often not used for bullets or diagrams but containing page numbers, copyright, logos, etc. The bottom of the slide can also contain the lead in to the next slide. For, some this is a sort of end of slide strap line and for others a small prompt or just a virtual zone that you need use to create the link to the next slide.

Tips to Speak and Give a Good Presentation

It is known that public speaking can be something that many people seem to struggle with. There are several types of public speaking, starting from the simple one like answering the questions in front of the class of college students, until giving presentation in front of public. Whatever the mission, there are several ways that you can take a look for speaking and giving a good presentation.

Firstly, if you are going to have a presentation in front of the audience with prior knowledge, the most important thing that you need to keep in mind is to be prepared. You have to study the materials that you will share with the audience.

Secondly, you need to know your audience. You have to exactly know whether you are going to give presentation for male group, female group, or others. Knowing the audience will determine on how you are going to deliver your presentation. For instance, if you are going to give a presentation to a group of 7 years old children about safety seat belt, you should avoid using horrible bloody pictures which can make them scary. Thus, it is very important to choose appropriate material for the appropriate audience.

Thirdly, you have to make eye contact with the audience. You need to try to not always read your notes or slides, which can make the lack of eye contact with your audience. The lack eye contact can also potential to make your audience get bored watching you read the notes during the presentation. So, you have to make sure that you give eye contact to your audience and try to make some jokes if possible.

Lastly, you need to learn about breathing techniques. By learning the techniques of breathing, you will know how to control your speaking speed so that you can speak naturally on your presentation.