When you speak in front of an expert audience, you’ll be imparting complex information. You can use the spoken word to structure topics and, in particular, spark your audience’s interest. Even the driest of topics can be made exciting with a lively voice, voice pitch, timbre, presentation speed, and well placed pauses.
The term “articulation” comes from “articulatim”, meaning “joint by joint, piecemeal, distinctly and in clear sequence”. When the speaker articulates a sound, they create movements using their speech organs (lips, tongue, soft palate), thereby forming certain positions.
Vowels are what give language its sound; consonants are developed in combination with vowels. They can explode (as with P, T, K), hiss and puff (as with S, SH, F, H), and be voiced (as with V, M, L). After a while, you should be able to recognize your own linguistic idiosyncrasies and work on them in a targeted fashion.
A powerful voice ideally comes from the stomach. Inexperienced speakers often generate their volume using compressed air, through tensed vocal chords. The voice then sounds unpleasant, and anyone speaking like that for extended periods of time will gradually go hoarse. With a stable, supported voice, it is possible to speak in a relaxed, audible manner even for longer periods of time, and fill a large room with your voice without any technical aids.
The volume of the speaker’s voice can enhance the impact of their speech. Core statements and the credo, for instance, will attract more attention if the voice is stronger at the relevant point. Targeted variation in speaking volume makes listeners more active, guiding them through the importance of the statements.
Appropriate presentation volume is of course directly related to room size and acoustics. Do an on-site test. If you’re unsure, you can ask your audience at the start if everyone can hear you properly. It is generally advisable to speak at a volume just above what you would use in a normal conversation.
The right pace is just as important as the right tone. It is instrumental in ensuring complex information is understood. The suitable pace of delivery for a presentation is generally one that is a little slower than would be used in everyday dialog.
You can deliberately slow your pace down before and during core statements so as to pointedly heighten audience attention and boost retention. Changing up the pace can make your listeners more active and generate excitement.
Stage fright almost always causes presenters to speak too fast over an extended period of time. When practicing, particularly concentrate on your rate of delivery, for that is how you will gradually internalize your presentation speed.
The incredible impact and power generated by a pause in speech is often underestimated. For listeners, pauses are an absolute necessity in order for them to grasp, and consequently retain, units of meaning (structural pause). For the speaker, meanwhile, the pause is a chance to calmly catch their breath. Pausing before a word is a good way to emphasize an important term or concept.
Your personality adds spice to the presentation and brings it to life. Unlike written text, a presentation is much, much richer – through the variability of timbre, and a wide range of intonations, rhythms, dynamics and emotion. You can sound optimistic, shocked, dismissive or confident of victory depending on the situation. Expressing emotions adds your personal take on the facts, and highlights your standpoint. When a speaker truly believes in what they’re talking about, their emotional speech often packs a rhetorical punch.