If you are heading to an assessment centre, doing a presentation may be one of the tasks on the table, or if you’re about to start a new job – congratulations by the way – presenting is a key skill that you will probably be required to use in some capacity throughout your career. So it’s worth focussing on this rarely considered aspect of presentation skills.
The three things you should consider when thinking about the way you speak are:
• Pitch and tone
1. Your volume
You need to make sure you’re speaking loudly enough for everyone in the room to hear. There’s nothing more irritating for an audience than a mumbler. A microphone may do this job for you, but if you don’t have one simply ask: “can everyone hear me ok?” Look around the room and make eye contact with as many people as you can as you ask.
Do this confidently and with a smile to boost your own confidence and engage with your audience. It’s important to get the volume right at the beginning so you won’t get distracted or interrupted once your presentation is flowing and it gives you a chance to hear your own voice before you really get going.
When you want to add emphasis to a given point it’s a good idea to increase your volume slightly, while making eye contact with various people around the room.
2. Your speed
Never speak too quickly. It shows you are nervous; it will mean you are more likely to make mistakes and it is less likely the audience will understand what you are saying.
It’s always faster to other people’s ears than it is in your head – so think ‘slow’. Pause just before you’re about to make an important or complicated point and just after to give your audience time to engage with and digest what you’re saying.
3. Your pitch and tone
Avoid a monotone voice at all costs. People lose interest very quickly without a song in their ears. Varying the pitch and tone keeps people’s brains engaged.
Reading from a script increases your chances of presenting in a monotone. So try to do your presentation from notes, rather than a script. If you have to read it, practice varying your pitch in an exaggerated way as if you’re reading a scary or exciting child’s story. Don’t deliver your presentation like that, however, just get used to hearing that range in your voice.
Using either genuine or rhetorical questions will help keep the flow of your speech varied, which will keep the audience engaged.
Enunciate clearly and don’t mumble into your notes.
Regardless of how nervous or self-conscious you may feel speaking in public if you can think ‘confident’ and match your body language and voice accordingly no one will ever know, and you will have an engaged and attentive audience.
Never forget how important your voice is – practice out loud, playing with volume, pitch, speed and tone, and record yourself to look for the areas in which you can improve.