Have you ever had to listen to someone with a dull, droning voice? It can get boring quickly, and it’s easy to lose interest and tune out the speaker. Now that it’s your turn to do the public speaking, you don’t want to be that person. If you want your audience to look alive and pay attention, learn how to vary your speaking voice using voice modulation.
Being able to modulate your voice correctly is a powerful tool. By varying the speed, tempo and volume of how you pronounce words, you can enliven your speech, create emphasis and captivate your audience’s attention. All it takes is a little training. By listening to famous speeches and working out your voice with speaking exercises, you will be on your way to hosting your own TED Talk in no time.
What Is Voice Modulation?
Voice modulation is a very important part of communication. Even though you might not have heard of it, you modulate your voice in general conversation every day. You do it when you change pitch, like when your voice goes up at the end of a question. Sometimes you do it to express sarcasm, and other times you modulate your voice to put emphasis on certain words.
Without voice modulation, you would continuously speak in a single pitch or tone. You would not be able to express doubt or ask questions, and you certainly couldn’t crack a joke. The problem is that when most people get up in front of an audience, stage fright causes their effortless, natural speaking rhythms to fly right out the window. Their voice becomes strained, and they might stumble over their words. The good news is that these issues can be trained away with speaking exercises and practice.
How to Use Voice Modulation to Improve Your Speaking Voice
Your speaking voice is a very malleable tool. Just like with music, its rhythm and tone can convey a meaning that may be different than the literal interpretation of your words.
If you want your audience to quiet down, to be calm or to perhaps hang on your every word, speak more quietly. Doing this right will make your audience lean forward in anticipation. If you want to rile up your audience, speak with a stronger voice. You can also use volume to convey your passion.
Try not to speak too quickly. Most audiences will have trouble following along. Instead, speak at a moderate pace. Slowing down your speech even more will emphasize each word. You can also use this technique to sound more peaceful or methodical. Speaking slowly is also an effective technique to use in lectures when your students are taking notes. Just be sure to switch up your pace. Don’t deliver your whole lecture at a snail’s pace.
Remember to practice your performance with speaking exercises so that your voice comes out just right. You can memorize tongue twisters for this purpose.
Working With Microphones
Many new speakers have misconceptions about microphones. Just because your voice is louder doesn’t mean it’s going to be automatically easier to understand. Microphones just make any speaking mistakes or tics louder and easier for your audience to detect.
Practice speaking with a microphone before your performance and record your speech. That way, you can experience your performance the way an audience would. This will help you detect words you have pronounced too loudly and times when hard consonants have caused feedback with the sound system. Adjust your speech accordingly so that your voice remains smooth and your breathing doesn’t cause interference with the microphone. If you are speaking at a professional event, be sure to talk to the sound engineers to discuss any concerns and to troubleshoot them before your performance.
Rebecca Renner is a teacher and college professor from Florida. She loves teaching about literature, and she writes about books for Book Riot, Real Simple, Electric Literature and more.