Picture the scene…
You’re in the audience, watching a speaker deliver the final work presentation of the day. They’ve only been speaking for ten minutes, but to you, it feels like they’ve been droning on for hours.
People around you aren’t paying attention. Their eyes are glazing over. And you swear that you can hear someone snoring a couple of rows behind you…
This might sound a bit dramatic, but there is one main culprit when an audience switches off during a speech… and that is a monotone voice.
A monotone voice is sadly common in the world of public speaking, even though it is completely ineffective. Not only does it lack emotion, but the people listening lose interest because nothing changes. The speech or presentation is delivered on the same wavelength the whole way through.
Now, this ineffectiveness can be applied to other kinds of speaking too. For example, if a speaker is constantly talking with really high pitch and energy, it is energetic and enthused, but will also become grating.
No matter what kind of content you are delivering to an audience, you want to avoid prolonged sameness as much as you can. The way to do it is by varying your voice!
And here are my three top ways that you can do it, known as TTV.
Your tonality is how you portray the emotions behind your words.
Think about it: when you ask someone how they are and they respond with “I’m fine”, you can tell whether they are or not based on how they say it.
The emotions you want to inject into your words will depend on your specific content. Sometimes you want to sound serious, sometimes, empathetic, intriguing, enthusiastic…so your tone needs to vary throughout your speech.
For example, check out this video to find out how to sound passionate while public speaking: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3daWhAxuwOk
Having a variety of emotions on display helps each of your points have a greater impact on your audience. So when you are practicing your next speech or presentation, really think about the words you are saying and understand the emotion that needs to go behind them to avoid going monotone.
Your tempo is more than just the speed at which you speak - it’s the energy you speak with.
Speaking quite slowly is usually where speakers become monotone. Slowing down your speech can be really powerful when you’re making a key point that you want to land. However, you can’t do this for your whole speech, as people will start to wish you would hurry up!
Speaking quite fast, on the other hand, has the ability to really lift up the energy of the room. But if you do it too much, you will sound nervous and your audience will lose track of the points you are trying to make.
The secret is to bounce along the scale. By using each tempo in a short burst, you will keep your audience engaged, as they won’t know where you are going next.
Here’s a formula to use when introducing a key point:
Start with speed to inject energy and pace into your words.
Speak normally to cover any detail…
And then slow down at the end, to make sure your last sentence lands.
Finally, volume follows the same principle as tempo. There are two extremes at either end, and you need to move between them both to avoid being monotone.
Lifting your volume helps to grab attention, but needs to be done sparingly or your audience will feel like you are shouting at them!
Lowering your voice helps to draw people in, but if you do it for too long they might struggle to hear you, and think you aren’t confident in what you are delivering.
Both are very powerful when they are used sparingly and in the correct context - just make sure you show clear variance in your volume throughout your speech or presentation.
The Tonality, Tempo, and Volume you use have to be specific to your content at all times.
We all vary our voice naturally in everyday conversations without even thinking about it. You just need to be intentional that you are doing it in your presentations too.
Here are two final examples to bring it all together:
If you are delivering bad news, you need to speak with empathy behind your words, speak more slowly, and be quieter.
If you are talking about something you are passionate about, you want to have an enthusiastic tone, speak faster, and at a higher volume.
Avoiding sounding monotone when you speak is just one of the topics covered in my Team Training programme. This course isn’t just about teaching - it’s about ensuring your employees are equipped with the skills they need to speak with confidence in all corporate settings.
We kick things off with a skills session, tailored to your requirements, and then we will run a separate delivery session, where each attendee has the opportunity to deliver a 5-minute presentation to get individual feedback not just from me, but from their teammates too.