Dec 09 2008

Loud versus strong

Published by at 9:39 AM under Delivery,Public Speaking


Let’s talk about volume.  This characteristic of speech is related to the loudness and softness of your voice as well as the strength and weakness of your voice, and therefore the strength or weakness of your presentation.  Loud is loud, but strong can be either loud or soft.

Volume is often affected by the use of air.  To read more about using air well, please read my article on Craig Senior’s blog, Speak!.  For now, think about how you sit when you speak on the phone or when speaking with someone while sitting at your desk.  Most people sit hunched over in their chair when on the phone.  This constricts the air flow.  It can make you sound listless, which gives an impression of weakness or fatigue.   Often, the volume of your voice goes down a notch when your posture goes down a notch.

  • To pump up your vocal energy, sit forward on your chair when you speak to others.  Better yet, get up and walk around.  Speak with more volume to get the air moving.

But remember that speaking loudly isn’t the only way to sound strong, confident and energetic.

  • Sometimes the best way to make a point or get attention is by speaking more softly.  Believe it or not, teachers and trainers can use this trick very effectively to get control of a noisy room.

When I was a student working as a teacher’s aid in a kindergarten room, the teacher never raised her voice.  In fact, she lowered her voice as the kids got noisier, until they noticed the silence rather than the yelling.  This trick saved her voice and was amazingly successful at calming the kids down.   Try it.

  • Or try accentuating a point quietly instead of loudly, but make sure that you keep the air moving in your voice even when you speak softly.

For this last technique, practice something like a stage whisper to keep the energy flowing and the audience engaged.

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