Tag Archives: vocal variety

‘Unicorn’ – My Tall Tale

This was my entry into the Marlow Regional Tall Tales contest in 2011. It was my first attempt at ever delivering a ‘Tall Tale’. A definite learning experience and I feel that next time I will go for more of a humorous angle as these were the speeches which tended to be the winning ones!

Audio only on this one. As a result, no use of body language to show off but some vocal variety to be listened to! I was going for an emotional story with a moral. What do you think?

I was representing Farnham Speakers and this all falls under the Toastmasters remit.

SEE ALSO: Speeches, Vocal Variety and Emotion.

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.


This is my sixth Toastmasters speech which I presented at Farnham Speakers. The goal was ‘Vocal Variety’.

I am pretty happy with how this one went and it also won ‘Best Prepared Speech’ on the night. The vocal variety was commended but of course there are always going to be things that I need to work on:

  • HANDS: Distracting. I do use body language for effect pretty well nowadays (and avoid pacing!) but the hands do attract comments. This may be a tough one to break.
  • SHADES OF GREY: I do a good job of quiet/loud and soft/harsh switching in this speech. Is there room for more though? Shades of grey and smoother transitions between the two? That said, the ‘snap’ transitions were deliberate…
  • EYE CONTACT: I loved this suggestion! While I make eye contact with the audience I do not quite let it linger enough to make it as powerful as it could be. It’s something to experiment with.

One thing I found very interesting when giving this speech was the audience reaction. Yes, they laughed as I hoped but it was clear some thought the transition to the serious part of the speech was just a set-up to another gag. I wonder what can be done about that? Or is it just a recognised hazard with giving a 6-7 minute speech which is trying to cross both worlds?

My next speech will have the goal of ‘Research Your Topic’ so I need to get thinking…

Finally, everything in the speech is true!