Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stop the Tone Drone

Ever wonder how you can maintain concentration when you listen to talk radio?

The answer is that you never have to listen to any one voice for too long.

Note how one person gives the traffic report, another talks about weather, and a third gives the financial update - all in under a minute.

We maintain our attention because of this vocal variation. If the same person were to speak for all three, we would have a much harder time digesting the information.

This is why someone can have no problem listening for an entire hour to talk radio while driving, but will drift off during a 15 minute lecture.

So how can you achieve this kind of vocal variation in a speech?

Change tones!

Divide your speech into several mini-speeches, each with a different, contrasting tone. Each tone should have an emotional intent - how you want the audience to feel when they listen to you. The tones should be completely distinct from each other.

For example, you might begin your speech with the goal of making the audience feel frustrated and then immediately switch tones so they feel hopeful.

And it goes without saying that tone changes should reinforce and support your content - that, of course, is the point in the first place!

From the Green Room: End vocal monotony. Change tones.


Anonymous said...

Does the mini-speech strategy work for most any presentation or is it especially conducive to certain types of situations? I get your frustration/hopefulness example, but how often does an opportunity for such a neat & natural duality present itself? And BTW -- since you mention monotonous, I have to say that I'm finding your spirited, quirky blog to be anything but!

Sarah Gershman said...

Great question. I think you can and should apply this strategy in almost any presentation. Even if, and perhaps especially if you are asked to give a presentation on an unexciting topic, mine the content to find the tone changes. It might be as basic as moving from an inquisitive tone to a forceful one.