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The words you choose to speak serve as platforms from which your tone of voice creates meaning. Think about how your tone of voice can change the meaning of a sentence:


For example: "You are going to do this for me."  This sentence can be phrased to be:

An angry demand - "You are going to do this for me!"

Amazement at someone's generosity - "You are going to do this for me?"

Sarcastic disbelief and putdown - "You are going to do this for me?"



Increasing and decreasing the volume of your voice demands attention. Experiment with underscoring key points by raising your volume. Then whisper your next point to further increase audience attention. When we get excited, or we are conveying important information, both volume and pitch tend to rise.


Raising and lowering pitch provides nuance. We signal that a sentence is a question by raising the pitch of the final words. When increasing volume, decrease pitch to avoid a breaking or squeaky voice.


Slowing your pace increases your authority as well as clarity. Most of us speak too fast - we get nervous and worried that we won't "get it all in." If you are stumbling over words, you are speaking too fast. The key to controlling your pace is learning to...pause.


Different vocal ranges communicate how strongly you feel about something. When you speak in a normal, conversational voice, it sends the non-verbal message that the statement is not of major import. When you speak with a higher level of intensity - more passion, more energy and sharp enunciation - it sends the non-verbal message that the statement is very important.

Practice flavoring your presentations with emotional character - excitement, concern, anger, or elation. Use your voice to demonstrate the attitude with which you feel about something.


Emotional Effect

Do not hesitate to be vocally expressive in business presentations. If you tell your audience about an exciting product in a dull, monotonous voice, your words and your voice are not in alignment. It is an uninspiring pitch if you talk about "ground breaking developments" in a quiet, lifeless voice.

Personal Stories

Telling a personal story provides abundant opportunities to stretch your vocal dynamism. When introducing a new character into your story, alter your voice to signal the audience "this is the other person." Don't say "he told us to finish up in an angry voice." Instead, make your voice his and say sharply "Dammit, finish up NOW!"

When describing a tense situation, get some excitement in your voice; as you talk about something sad, slow down and lower your voice.

Map Your Outline

Note where you want to create vocal emphasis (opening, and closing lines, key points and potentially dull sections). Circle or underline words you wish to emphasize.


What is the easiest way to regain an audience's attention?

Stop Speaking.

One of the most powerful uses of your voice is to not use it at all. Silence peaks attention and gives you an opportunity to take in information about the audience.

Most presenters have a natural aversion to it. We consciously seek to fill any silence with "ahhhs, uhmms" and inane chatter.

Silence by the presenter creates tension in the audience. Experiment with just standing silently and watch heads start to turn toward you.

Hold the silence while you look into an audience. Let the tension build interest. Comments introduced or punctuated by silence have high impact.

Your ability to stand in silence before the audience demonstrates authority and confidence.

Gesture and Movement: Where, When, Why

Grab Attention

To make a key point, to pull the audience back when you feel them slipping away.

Convey Dynamism

To communicate confidence in yourself and your message, to command the room, to express your dynamic personality.

Communicate Precise Meaning

To fill the words with emotional import, to clarify the meaning of a statement, to indicate your perspective on the subject.

Communicate Emotion

To convey the importance of an idea, the devastation of an ill chosen course of action, the excitement of an event.

Reinforce the Truth/Authenticity of the Message

To seem authentic and credible to your audience. Body language reinforces what you are saying.

Optimize the Impact of Universal Gestures

To create rapport by their familiarity and to quickly develop understanding.

Communicate over a Larger Physical Space

To reach individuals in a large audience requires more dynamic gestures than those when speaking one-on-one.

Liven Things Up

To liven and lighten things up use juxtaposition, exaggeration, incongruities and surprise; pit gestures and movement against your words.

About the Author: The Henderson Group trains and coaches business professionals in the art of communication and presentation through our experiential methodology. Since 1990, The Henderson Group has helped Fortune 500 companies worldwide improve employee productivity and business results through the development of communication skills. You can find us online at and or Attend A Workshop