Thursday, March 25, 2010

Overcoming a Monotone Voice

Many presenters and performers struggle with having a monotone voice. We often think that we're far more colorful than we actually are. Darn! What to do about this?

Videotaping, as well as Toastmasters, aren't bad ideas. But it's also important to know specific techniques to create variation - which is the key to keeping an audience's attention, and to breaking out of monotone and other consistent habits. Doing so via emotional cues (speak lines in various tones - sad, happy, playfully, etc.) are a possibility; or, heighten various facial expressions, which then connects emotionally and changes the voice. Simply smiling should help change the tone as well; regardless of the seriousness of the topic, speaking with a smile makes it more approachable.

Another approach is to break down the vocal possibilities technically. The following are a few of the the elements that can be played with:
- volume (which sounds like it's an issue) - getting quieter is just as effective as getting louder
- pitch (higher or lower tones)
- enunciation (more enunciation highlights words)
- tempo (speaking slower or faster)

When coaching or in my advanced, workshops, I teach a vocal adaptation of Laban Movement Analysis, which gives clients many different speaking styles to work with - but this is harder to convey in a blog. Darn! But the above four are a good start.

Where to apply them? In a written speech, underline key words - be it a noun, adjective, or whatnot - and apply variation there. If you're speaking extemporaneously, it's helpful to practice with a nursery rhyme or something else you already know. By first practicing these skills with a set text, you'll then have an easier time applying it to a speech that's off the cuff.

If you give it a try, post your results and let us know how it went!


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