Use your voice wisely

I am often asked to coach teams before their big presentation to clients. This is their time to shine, to rise above their competition, and to take it home for the team! A lot of work is put into preparing for this moment, and although you are often saying all of the right things, your competitor sweeps it away from you. How can that be? A few key ingredients for your team to succeed:

  • The right people – Identify the key personnel that will represent your firm, no more, no less.
  • The right attitude – Perhaps even more important than what each team member knows is how they act and interact with each other.
  • The right discipline – Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to prepare a winning presentation.
  • Practice – Focus not only on the message, but also body language, timing, and transitions between presenters. Your goal is to be composed and confident.

Don’t forget the importance of your voice during the presentation. The three most common problems with voice are:

  • Speaking at the same rate
  • Speaking at the same tone
  • Speaking at the same volume

A monotonous voice will bore any audience, regardless of content of the presentation. This is where you could be saying all of the right things but your client can’t hear them. An effective presentation voice will vary in tone, rate and volume, keeping your audience interested and helping to emphasize key points.

  • Voice rate – Slow down or even pause right before the main point, it will highlight and emphasize it.
  • Voice volume – Speak with volume variation but stay relatively loud so you are seen as authoritative, knowledgeable and confident.
  • Voice projection – Speak louder while you speak at a pitch either lower or the same as your normal pitch.
  • Voice animation – Your voice should be lively and animated, while remaining natural and professional. Remember to speak with an enthusiasm that is believable.
  • Vocalized pauses – A few vocalized pauses (er, uh, etc.) are okay but work on eliminating them by substituting silent pauses.

Just remember – above all else, your voice should sound natural. Your natural speaking voice will come with practice and experience.

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