Vocal power to project your pitch. YouTube site will show you how.

by Peter Watts

Saturday sunrise in our local farmer’s market. For vendors, successful selling is strongly dependent on vocal power.

Wherever you look, there is a tangle of flats, shrubs, standards and climbers. Local gardeners, way better at early morning alertness than I am, scramble to get to the good stuff before rival gardeners get there first.

Where first? Which direction? Do I have the patience to dig for the bargain Impatiens?

“10 flats for 40 bucks. 15 flats for 50.”

Loud, clear, and cutting the chaos around me, a vendor’s sales call guided me direct to his pitch.

Public speaking originated in a strikingly similar environment. The Agora in ancient Athens was a thriving temple-ringed market. From the prostitutes to the philosophers, all at the Agora were selling their wares.

For the philosophers this meant standing and proclaiming sufficiently loudly and clearly that they too could cut the chaos and attract a crowd. Crowds meant fame. Fame meant students. Students meant someone paid you!

Nothing’s changed. From the Agora of Athens to your local farmer’s market, vocal skills remain essential to holding an audience.

This week I’ve discovered this excellent section of ExpertVillage. The video clips contained in this library are short and memorable. Everything you need for vocal clarity all contained in one handy spot:

ExpertVillage voice lessons on YouTube

Watch and learn for how to improve your presentation skills

Watching other people presenting is a great way to improve your own presentation style

by Peter Watts

Frequently when we find ourselves sitting in meetings and watching presentations, we regard it as something of a chore, quietly checking our watches to see how long it is to the next break. Instead, every time we are sitting in an audience it is an opportunity to observe the presenter, build up ideas about what works and what doesn’t work, and then apply that to our own style when it comes to being at the front of the room.

The next time you attend a presentation try to analyze how the presenter is conveying, or not conveying, their message. Pay close attention to:

The structure

Is there a clear beginning, middle, and end to the presentation? As an audience member, do you feel comfortable that the presenter has provided you with a clear route-map of their goals and objectives?

The message

Is there a consistent message running through the presentation so that the content all hangs together logically?

The style

Does the presenter have body language and voice control that serves to underline the message and bring emphasis to key points, as well as making the presentation vivid and easy to listen to?

When you see something that you admire, make a note of it and try to model it in your own  sessions. The very fact that you admire it indicates that it is something of which you yourself are fully capable. At the same time, if there is something you don’t like, or that you find confusing, you are seeing something that you should be working to avoid.

In this way, presentations in which we sit in the audience, be they in business, at PTA meetings, or even in places of worship, all become informal training opportunities. Every presenter has their strengths, and indeed, their weaknesses. Observing these strengths and weaknesses with our full attention is a great way to literally, watch and learn!

In large audience presentations, a microphone lets your voice be heard

by Peter Watts

When speaking to an audience, it’s not only important that the people at the back of the room can hear our words, they need to be able to hear our voice as well.

It might sound like these two elements are one and the same thing, but they are actually different.

Our voices convey our message with a variety of nuances. There is the light and shade of our tone, the emphasis of our volume, and the indicators of our pitch. All of these attributes combine to make the voice into a rich and infinitely varied tool.

When speaking to a moderately sized group of up to 30 people, then it’s within the power of most of us to project the voice while maintaining it’s quality. As groups and rooms become larger however, that ability starts to break down.

If the opportunity arises, stand at the back of a large group of people and listen to the voice of someone presenting to them. You’ll notice that although you can probably hear what they are saying, the distance involved means the voice has become thin and drawn out, with a slightly uncomfortable echo as the speaker tries to force up the volume and reach the back of the room. All the bass notes have become lost along the way, and it’s difficult to feel any connection to the person delivering them.

At the same time, for the poor speaker, the effort of speaking at full volume is tiring them, making the voice become ever more difficult to hear.

If these presenters had the opportunity to go back in time and plan their sessions again, they would have requested a microphone. It’s a remarkably simple thing to overlook and many of us, never having heard ourselves from the back of the room, wouldn’t realize how much a large group of people can dissipate sound.

If you are being asked to speak at a venue that can hold more than thirty people, then the chances are that they will also have a sound system available. If you have a choice, use a radio microphone rather than a handheld or fixed version that will interfere with your freedom of movement. As with all aspects presentational, it’s a good idea to arrive at the venue early and have a sound check first, so that from your first words the volume is correctly set.

Many presenters are accustomed to spending time ensuring that their slides are going to be clear and visible at the back of the room. It’s equally important to ensure that our voices are too.


Dealing With Dry-Mouth: Part of Presentation Nerves

by Peter Watts

Something peculiar happens to the throat while public speaking; its moist lining is replaced by sandpaper, and the voice, that essential presentation tool, asphyxiates to a rasp.

In the same way that it’s important for presenters to manage food intake, it’s also important to be aware of water intake, while avoiding caffeinated drinks such as coffee, which actually inhibit the ability to speak clearly. It’s a cruel twist that even though presentation nerves suppress our appetite for food, our appetites for caffeine become unquenchable. Even light coffee drinkers develop a conjoined relationship with the nearest coffee cup!

As well as acting as vocal lubricants, liquids swiftly enter our blood stream, so it’s important to be aware of what they do for us and to us during presentations:

Water

A dry throat caused by tension needs to be relieved by sipping water. Have your water close at hand during your presentation and always carry your own small bottle with you, just in case water isn’t provided.

You’ll find the reassurance of simply knowing you have a source of water nearby reduces the risk of your voice drying out.

Hot Drinks

Hot drinks are frequently offered to us pre-presentation, and, as we’ll see in a later blog, can be very calming. Caffeinated drinks however should be avoided for three reasons:

  1. Caffeine is a stimulant and more stimulant to top up your adrenalin is the last thing you need
  2. Caffeine tenses the vocal chords so the voice tires more rapidly
  3. Caffeine is diuretic. You may feel like you’re taking in liquid, but it’s actually making you expel far more than you retain

 De-caffeinated drinks are fine, and many presenters drink plain hot water if it’s easily available.

Energy Drinks and Sodas

AVOID! Soda is gassy, and when presenting, gassy is never good. I once discovered this for myself when attached to a radio microphone in front of 300 people at a trade show!

Energy drinks meanwhile contain enough caffeine to wide-eye a stallion. They might be promoted as “natural stimulants”, but so are many class A drugs, and those aren’t recommended either! Remember the balance of stimulants already racing round your body. Avoid adding others to the mix.

Alcohol

Sadly, alcohol is in the never-before-a-presentation category. Even a single glass of wine will interfere with your judgment. This needs to be kept in mind especially for anyone who is after-dinner speaking.

That rosy glow of contentment is best experienced after your presentation, not during!

For more ideas on how to control presentation nerves, try the following Presenters’s Blog posts:

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