The voice is an important factor to be considered in delivering a speech, although, effective use of voice is also necessary in informal conversations. In public speaking, effective vocal delivery improves the clarity of the speech and ensures an engaging speech delivery. It is essential to take note of the aspects of voice usage as these influence the audience’s perception of the speaker’s trustworthiness or credibility and determine the success of the communication. These aspects of voice usage include volume, pitch, rate, vocal variety, articulation, pronunciation, fluency, and emphasis.
Volume refers to the loudness or softness of one’s voice. It is important to modulate the voice depending on what would be appropriate for the situation. The ability to vary the volume of your voice according to the situational context or the size of the audience is termed projection. Often, the audience forms judgments about the speaker based on his or her voice. In intimate and casual conversations where you speak near your interlocutor, a soft voice is appropriate. In transactional conversations, such as when you talk to your teachers, employers, counselors. or business partners, it is appropriate to use a moderate voice. When speaking in front of a large audience, voice projection is important. Recognizing nonverbal cues from the audience would help in determining if you need to increase or decrease the volume of your voice.
Rate refers to the speed of one’s speech or how fast or slow one speaks. The ideal speaking rate is 140-160 words per minute. Speaking too fast may result in the audience failing to understand the message or missing important information. Speaking too slowly on the other hand may result in boredom. Just like in voice projection, it is important to adjust the rate of one’s speech as it also leads the audience into generating inferences about the speaker. In public speaking, a very fast speech delivery, for instance, may imply either enthusiasm or nervousness. A slow speaker may be deemed as unsure of himself or herself, uninterested, or unprepared and may cause the audience to lose interest in listening. The rate of one’s speech, however, also depends on context. For example. if there are time-constraints, such as in debates, question-and-answer portions in competitions, or when you are giving warnings or informing about an accident, you are not expected to speak slowly. In cases where you are giving complicated instructions, it is important to speak slowly to ensure that the listener can follow what you are saying.
Pitch refers to the highness or lowness of a speaker’s voice. Gender and age are some of the factors that affect the differences in vocal pitch. Men normally have lower pitch than women as the latter’s vocal cords are generally thinner and longer than the former’s. And teenage boys have higher pitch than men. Still, it is possible to change one’s pitch in delivering speeches or communicating. Doing so helps in expressing emotions or emphasizing important information in a speech.
There are four levels of speech in English. These are low, middle, high, and very high. The middle and the high range are commonly used in conversations but a lower pitch is The difference in pitch between men and women be: also observed especially in giving more apparent when singing. emphasis to important ideas and in signaling transitions or the end of an utterance. A high or very high pitch is usedwhen expressing intense emotions, such as when a speaker is talking about something he or she is enthusiastic about or when he or she is expressing anger.
The rising and falling patterns that result from the variations in the levels of pitch is called intonation. The use of varying levels of pitch enhances meaning. On the other hand, a speech delivered in a robotic, monotone voice, for instance, is annoying and difficult to comprehend.
Fluency refers to the smoothness and effortlessness of one’s speech delivery. A fluent speaker is someone who is able to speak at a natural pace without too much hesitation, repetition, and interruption. The two common types of disfluencies or factors that interrupt the smooth flow of the speech are verbal fillers and fluency hiccups. Verbal fillers are utterances such as “um,” “ah,” “like,” or “err” that are used to fill the gaps between the speaker’s statements. &fluency hiccup is an unintentional pause often caused by losing one’s train of thought. Some of the factors that may affect fluency is the rate of the speech delivery and the speaker’s monitoring of his pronunciation or grammar while speaking. When a speaker is too nervous, unsure of what he or she is saying, or doesn’t know what to say next, the speech also loses its flow. Lack of fluency affects the audience’s perception of the speaker’s credibility. When a speaker loses the smooth rhythm or flow of the speech, it is much more difficult for the listener to focus on, and comprehend, the message. Consider the following introduction for a report:
Um… hello, classmates. Today… I’m going to discuss about… the… the… uh… the aspects, aspects of… of… err… aspects of vocal delivery. So basically… it’s all about…uh… how one… person should… like…you know, speak… urn… effectively and uh.. well…speak well.
One way to avoid too much unintentional pauses is to prepare before delivering one’s speech. You may begin by writing down what you are going to say beforehand and later, practicing how you are going to say it. Compared to written language, oral language is generally more informal. Trying to memorize a speech written in formal language causes fluency hiccups. You may also record your voice to determine whether or not you are using too much verbal fillers. Being aware of how you speak helps you reduce your use of fillers and improves your fluency. In addition, practicing speaking about topics that you seldom talk about helps in developing the ability to express ideas creatively even when you are unprepared.
Correct pronunciation or producing the sounds of the words accurately also affects the clarity of the speech. Aside from distracting the listeners, mispronouncing words also affects how the audience will perceive the speaker in terms of his or her credibility or knowledge about the subject. For instance, many students mispronounce words as simple as “pronunciation.” Pronunciation is also influenced by the speaker’s mother tongue or first language. Committing lapses in pronunciation may also affect the meaning of the message. Before delivering your speech, make sure that you look up in the dictionary the correct pronunciation of words that you are unfamiliar with.
An articulate speaker is someone who speaks clearly. Articulation or producing the sounds of words clearly is an important element of vocal delivery. While you may know the correct pronunciation of a word, you may not be producing the sounds as clear as possible. For instance, if you mumble or slur words when speaking, listeners will find more difficulty in understanding what you say. Instead of saying, “I didn’t” inarticulate speakers would say “I dint” or “kinda” instead of “kind of.” Instead of “I would have liked that,” they would say “I woulda like that.” Although this may be acceptable in conversations or informal situations, poor articulation is often perceived as laziness even if it is a habit or something you are just used to. Poor articulation, coupled with a low voice volume, affects speech clarity.
Emphasis refers to the value or prominence given to a particular word in a sentence. This may be achieved by putting stress on content words or words that carry the most important meaning in statements. Compared to function words such as prepositions and conjunctions, content words such as nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs, usually receive the weight or the emphasis. Emphasizing certain words adds another layer of meaning in the statement and helps express emotions. One can emphasize a word by using a loud voice, changing the pitch, and using intended pauses.
Vocal variety refers to the changes in the vocal volume, rate, and pitch, which makes the speech more interesting to listen to. A speech delivered using monotonous voice, speed, and loudness is boring and difficult to listen to. Being aware of the way your voice sounds will help you in expressing your emotions better in conversations and public speeches.