Speaking & Presentation Skills
5 Tips to Win More Business With Your Voice

by Phyllis Mikolaitis
Do you know that you can use your voice effectively to engage the audience? Stiff, scripted, monotone, or sing-songy voices do not win business and often turn customers or audiences off. Here are 5 tips to make your storytelling or presentations more powerful and effective using your voice.
Are you using your voice effectively to engage the audience? Stiff, scripted, monotone, or sing-songy voices do not win business and often turn customers or audiences off.

Many people worry that their nervousness will show in a shaky voice or weak voice. Others worry about the volume and vocabulary. Some voice attributes can be managed with technology such as a sound system for the control of volume. Practice can bring confidence to the voice and books or CDs can enhance your vocabulary. But, the many other qualities that voice can add to your presentation or storytelling are not often considered. Here are five tips to help you win more business by improving your verbal communication.
  1. Listen to your voice. You don't know how you sound until you hear yourself. Most people are reluctant to record their voice but it's the best way to hear what your audience hears. Record yourself speaking, then play it back and listen attentively to your voice qualities. Make notes about pacing, qualifying words, and how many times you say "um" and "you know".

  2. Don't rush your presentation. Many people struggle with pace when presenting. When we're nervous or have too much content and too little time, we rush through what we have to say. Plan for the allotted time. Pacing can help you stress the important words. The emphasis on words can convey emotions such as passion, pain, caring and commitment to your cause. Look at your text and choose the words that should be emphasized. I use a highlighter or a bold font for them in my speeches. Inflection can also help you emphasize key words. Pausing after important points can add impact and let the audience know what you think is important. Some speakers repeat a few important words for emphasis. Repeating too many words can be distracting. So, choose the words you want to emphasize carefully. I often listen to famous speakers just for style. Many great speeches are available on YouTube.

  3. Kill the filler words. One of the things that annoy me most is words used just to fill space while the speaker is thinking of a response. Words such as "um" and "you know" are the most frequently used and are often referred to as verbal graffiti. We regularly hear those used in interview sessions on talk shows or in news interviews. It's better to take a second or two of silence than to constantly use filler words. I remember being taught that writing my "filler" word on the back of the name card on my desk or podium would remind me not to use it. Again, use your smart phone or tablet to record your notes from a meeting or your next speech and then listen to a playback. You will quickly uncover your filler words as well as your speaking pace and modulation. You will also identify when you most often use these words and can anticipate their use. Pause and focus on your next word. It won't take long and it's definitely worth the time and effort!

  4. Learn to breathe fully. Most people run out of breath at the end of a sentence and the sentence ends on a "down" note making the ear think you are finished. Standing tall, taking a full breath, and speaking using your diaphragm will allow you to finish on an "up" note and the listener will be anticipating your next thought. This skill takes some practice and breathing or physical exercise can be helpful. It's another high value effort. It will, however, become easier for you with time and practice and your audience will remain engaged.

  5. Eliminate the "add on" words. Many people seek agreement after each request for action or to ensure the audience is in agreement with them. Words such as "OK" at the end of these sentences can be annoying as well as distracting. For example: "Be sure to turn in your evaluation form at the end of the meeting, OK?" Qualifiers can also have a negative impact your speech. The word "try" seems to be a contender for top position in this category. "Guess", "maybe", "kind of" (or kind 'a), and "sort of" are probably not far behind. Some words in this category may be necessary at times. However, take care that they are used appropriately and they are not having a negative impact on your content. Work to use them only when required and you will find you have more impact.
Using these techniques can add interest and get cheers rather than snoozes.
For more hints and tips visits our website: http://www.salestrainingsolutions.com/Articles
Note: another source for studying the experts: TED Talks ( http://www.ted.com/ ) - speakers get a maximum of 18 minutes to deliver their message. This is a world-class place to view the best speakers all collected in one place.
Phyllis has over 35 years experience and is available for speaking or training.
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