Archive for the ‘Vocal’ Category

Whether it’s delivering a short, impromptu talk from the front of the room or participating as an audience member, many people refuse to use the proffered microphone.

Oh, no, no, no …. I don’t need that.  I’m fine.

It doesn’t matter if it’s obviously needed, they hold up their hands as if to fend off a dangerous weapon.

I’ve never quite understood.  Maybe a microphone makes them feel too high-profile or too obligated to deliver a well-articulated message.

Whatever the reason, they are putting their own concerns above the need others have to hear.

When you volunteer to speak and someone offers you the microphone, go ahead and use it.  Making it easy for others to hear you is a simple courtesy that should take priority over a bit of discomfort on your part.

If someone doesn’t want to attract attention they will “lay low.”  We say they are keeping a low profile.

Some speakers unconsciously lay low with their voice.  Uncomfortable with the attention public speaking brings, they lower their volume and minimize vocal animation.  At some instinctual level, they are trying to become a smaller target.  Maybe if they are not “out there” with a strong, lively voice, they won’t face as much scrutiny.

A low profile voice does not create a safer speaking environment.  It can, however, create the impression of low confidence or a lack of full engagement in the topic.

Interestingly, if someone who is using a low-profile voice makes an effort to project better, they will often report feeling more confident.  Instead of letting insecurity take away from their voice, they find that they can use their voice to take away insecurity.

As much as possible I avoid writing blog posts that repeat what is in my book.  However, after coaching several people this week on the same issue, I feel it deserves to be repeated.

If you develop a rushed sound when you are presenting, you don’t come across confident.  You sound anxious. 

A confident image includes acting like you own the time.  If you have been given ten minutes to talk, you own that ten minutes.  It’s yours.  Act like it.  Sound like it.  No rushing.

I sometimes tell people who are scheduled to present to senior management to create a back-up slide deck that represents an executive version of the main deck.  It should consist of just the slides they need to make their main points.  Then if they are told to “keep it short” because the meeting agenda has slipped, they can opt to just deliver the executive version.  That way the can take their time and “own” the shortened time frame.  Rushing through the full deck will make a poor impression just when a strong impression is most needed.

An alternative to creating a separate, executive version of the slide deck is to jump through the main deck, going to only to those slides that would have gone into an executive version.  Do this smoothly by identifying these slides in advance and moving to each one by typing in its number and the hitting the Enter key.

A few days ago I was listening to a speaker talk about a time in his life when he was suffering from continuous panic attacks.  As a lead-in to his message about conquering anxiety, he wanted the audience members to know he had personally experienced what many of them were suffering.

That was good.  He was establishing personal credibility.  But, his delivery was out of synch with what he was saying.

He was speaking dramatically slow—with long pauses.  He obviously wanted to convey the intensity of his experiences.  Yet the story he was telling was about a frantic, heart-pounding, room-pacing time in his life.  How he was talking would have been more appropriate for a story about depression, and a period in his life when time seemed to stand still.

Without getting carried away, his delivery needed to communicate some of that over-worried, agitated state he was experiencing.  If nothing else, the pace should have been quicker.

How a message is delivered should be in synch with the message.  If it’s about the energy-giving benefits of a diet, the speaker should project energy.  If it’s about the need to pause, step back, and reassess a situation, the speaker should slow down and pause momentarily.

Delivery is part of the message.  It can reinforce it, or weaken it by being out of synch.


Steele Presentation Coaching