I’m sure the sound of your voice is wonderful, however….


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“…I couldn’t help but struggle to stay awake after 20 minutes.”

Probably not the best thought I had toward a colleague of mine.

Have you ever nodded off during a talk only to think to yourself, the way this person speaks makes me want to fall asleep?

He had a melodious voice. Nothing wrong with it – it was a presentation delivered a consistent, sage-like tone.

However, there were no moments in his speech where I felt there was any sense of drama or tension.

No build up, climax, mountain-top moments, valleys nor troughs of despair.

And that was the problem.

I couldn’t figure out which moments mattered, or which moments were just context.

I believe the key to establishing drama and tension in delivering your subject matter is vocal variation.

Now not all of our presentations need over-the-top vocal variation, however, adding it in strategic moments will certainly make the overall experience far more engaging for our audience.

There are three types of voices you should try to incorporate in any message that you share that seeks to persuade or inspire.

The wise, sage voice

This voice is the one most of us use during a conversation. It’s quite neutral and to most people, sounds like it’s calm and collected.

If you’re delivering information or setting up the backstory, then the wise, sage voice is your go-to voice. I would say that even 95% of your presentation would be made up of this type of voice.

As long as you’re pausing, giving people time to think once you’ve asked a rhetorical question, the wise, sage voice is a safe bet for vocal tonality throughout most of your presentation.

The warrior voice

I believe I heard this popularised from UK public speaker coach, Andy Harrington.

Think, William Wallace’s freedom speech in Braveheart.

Or the latter parts of Martin Luther King Jr’s speech, ‘I have a dream‘.

It’s loud and emphatic.

Often complemented with intense gestures, the warrior voice should be used when you want to drive a point home.

The whisper voice

This is used in a moment of vulnerability, of sadness. You can use this at a point of sharing a story where you’ve encountered an a-ha moment too.

It’s incorporated with subtle hand gestures and don’t overthink your body language. Let your body talk as it is when you’re using the whisper voice.

It could also be used when you want your audience to lean in and glean a teaching moment. When used with emphatic eye contact, it can be as powerful as using the warrior voice.

As a side note, I’ve seen it used in a situation when the crowd is getting rowdy and distracted, and somewhat disrespectful. The speaker starts whispering his content and immediately people start leaning in.

Strategicially vary it up

The next time you prepare and rehearse a presentation, consider varying up your vocal tonality at opportune moments and see your audience engagement improve.

It’s helpful to think of these three voices as points in a spectrum, as opposed to three distinct and definitive tonal modes.

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