Tag Archives: speaking

Speeches, Vocal Variety and Emotion

At the last Farnham Speakers meeting, I was privileged to be able to evaluate a wonderful and emotional speech. The topic was the speaker’s experience at assisting at a home birth and the thrills and concerns that came with it.

I was asked by the speaker to pay particularly attention to Vocal Variety as she had been ‘pulled up’ on this a few times before. It was not the goal of the speech but it is good to be considering the whole package.

The speech was an excellently presented story of the occasion. It made me realise just how much vocal variety is key to the delivery of emotion. This was a very personal story, after all, and there was no doubt as to any of the sincerity. It was very clear just how much the occasion meant to her.

Vocal Variety allows the ‘highs and lows’ of an occasion to contrast with each other, which in turn will make the impact of any emotion so much stronger. As mentioned, the sincerity was very clear. However, what would have made the speech even stronger would have been more vibrant vocal variety with the descriptions of the more ‘manic’ parts of the birth: Suddenly everything starts to happen and there is scope for panic despite any preceding calmness. Reflecting this in the voice is very powerful.

The strong emotional feeling of a baby being delivered safely would contrast so very well against dramatic use of vocal variety in the preceding moments… the ‘Is everything going to be okay?’ effect.

Such contrasting is a classic story-telling technique. Think of all those ‘rags to riches’ stories! “Look at me, I’m confident and strong up here on the stage…. but…. it never used to be this way…”.

How have you used Vocal Variety or other techniques recently to really increase the level of emotional involvement that you have with an audience?

SEE ALSO: Delivering an effective speech evaluation.

Delivering an effective speech evaluation

I really enjoy getting the opportunity to evaluate speeches as part of my membership of Farnham Speakers and the world of Toastmasters in general. Speech giving is a real art and I have learned over time that evaluating in an effective manner is one as well.

I am going to share some of the ways that I like to give an evaluation. I am in debt to many of the great speech evaluators out there as I have certainly picked up some wonderful techniques from them.

  1. WHAT ARE YOU EVALUATING? Every speech has a goal so remember that the evaluation has to be mindful of this. This includes taking the time to talk to the speaker beforehand in case there is anything special they want commented on (“I keep fidgeting with my hands, can you check I don’t do it this time?”). Think of your evaluation as having a target.
  2. THE EVALUATION IS FOR EVERYONE. A common mistake is for the evaluator to just talk at the speech giver. This has the instant result of making everyone else in the room not feel welcome. Target your evaluation at the entire audience. You should still be sure to reference the giver of the speech though… you are not a robot.
  3. COMMENDATION / RECOMMENDATION / COMMENDATION. This is the cornerstone of an effective evaluation model. Start with the positives, then mention what could be improved, and round off with something positive. I won’t dwell too much on this one as it is a bit obvious!
  4. YOU ARE WORTHY. I sometimes see evaluators feel they are not ‘worthy’ of giving an evaluation! “I haven’t given many speeches”. It doesn’t matter: Your opinion has value!
  5. THE SPEECH WAS NOT PERFECT. Perhaps linked to the previous point. Sometimes evaluators will say a speech was pretty much perfect and that they have no recommendations. Seriously? There was nothing at all that could have been improved in the speech? Try harder and don’t be shy. As an evaluator you have a duty to evaluate fully.
  6. MAKE A ‘CALLBACK’ TO THE SPEECH. It helps show warmth if you somehow reference the content of the speech in your introduction. Combine this with humour and it will really help bond with the audience. It will show that you genuinely liked a speech if you did this, instead of a generic “I liked this speech”.
  7. WE KNOW IT IS YOUR OPINION. Avoid In my opinion…. There is no need for it as by definition your evaluation is your opinion. It can sound defensive and apologetic.
  8. CONCLUSION. Don’t forget this. In addition, please telegraph it as you will get the full attention of the audience for the ‘big finish’.

I hope that you have found these tips useful. If you have any of your own to share then please go ahead and post a comment. I would love to read them!

Give someone a verbal hug today: Names

Have you given someone a verbal hug today?

There are occasions when we meet a new group of people. The usual whirlwind of introductions and names occur. Sometimes we almost ‘discard’ someone’s name because it can seem superfluous detail compared to who the person actually is. It is also going to be one of the first things someone says to us so our concentration may not be in the right place either.

I have blogged with some tips in this area before, so check that out if you struggle with this!

Recently, I was happy to be complimented on the fact that I was remembering the names of everyone. I certainly used to be terrible at it and it was only with effort that I improved. Football refereeing has been a ‘trial of fire’ with this: You want to do everything possible to establish rapport with 22+ potentially unruly players!

I’ve already linked to some tips on how to improve in this area, but WHY is it so important?

  1. IT’S A VERBAL HUG! All of us have had names for a very long time! We react to them instinctively. Hearing someone use your name is a form of hug and makes you feel welcome and involved. This is of course referring to a name being used in a positive way as opposed to anything that might trigger the memories of a parent giving a ‘telling off’.
  2. THANKS FOR LISTENING. Using someone’s name, especially early on, does at least demonstrate you are paying attention. You may appear to be listening to an anecdote but if you find yourself ten minutes later having to ask, “Erm, what was your name again?” then you have undone some of that good.
  3. YOU ARE CREATING INVOLVEMENT. It is possible to be a ‘social queen bee’ and involve others in the conversation a lot more easily if you can use their name. Again, this is all about making people feel welcome and valued. “This person is also involved in….” does not quite have the same ring to it. Nor would beckoning someone with hand signals alone!

Try using names more often today. Even with people you know really well. See what a change it has and whether you can hit a good ‘sweet spot’!

Breaking through walls: Redux

I performed my ‘Breaking through walls’ speech a second time. This was unexpected but Camberley Speakers contacted me as they had a spare slot. I was a little reticent as it felt a little weird to do the same speech twice but they were very encouraging!

In fact, the encouragement from Toastmasters clubs is always pretty amazing.

So, what did I learn from doing it a second time?

I was much, much more relaxed. I had not ‘touched’ the speech since the day of the original performance and I did not even take my notes with me to the second meeting. It flowed very naturally and the audience seemed to key into the speech much more which in turn helped me out. It felt much more like a performance to me as opposed to just giving my speech.

Something obviously clicked: I won ‘Best Prepared Speaker’ on the night and was also in the right zone to win ‘Best Topics Speaker’ as well!

Martin Berry, President of Camberley Speakers, told me afterwards that he feels that it is always the second time he gives a speech that it feels the strongest. Any time after that it starts to become more of a recital.

I have yet to need to give the same speech more than twice but as I have my gaze fixed firmly on competing in the speaking arena in the near future, I am going to have to get used to the idea!

Is there a ‘sweet spot’ for you when performing?