How are You Communicating

For starters, do you know your speaking rate?

Public Speaking comes from thinking great thoughts which, when shared, form solid interpersonal bonds that allow those great thoughts to become shared values and actions. However, to become actions, those values must be communicated clearly and effectively.

For precise and effective communication to be achieved, close attention must be paid to your instrument of contact – your voice. And how you use your voice to communicate.

For starters, do you know your speaking rate?  Do you know how fast or slow you speak? The best speaking rates when you are presenting are between 120 and 170 words per minute. One hundred twenty words per minute when speaking slowly. One hundred seventy words per minute when speaking at a medium rate.  

Many speakers write out their speeches and use the “Word Count” feature in their software to determine the number of words they should prepare for the time allotted to speak. To make that determination, they divide the number of words they have written by their speaking rate. That indicates approximately how much time they will require for their delivery.

Knowing your rate of speaking is critical. A simple way to determine your speaking rate is to take the one-minute speed test. First, record yourself reading a passage for one minute at your average speaking rate. Then count the number of words you read. Finally, divide the number of words completed by the minutes it took – to arrive at your speaking rate. Many other good examples are available online for determining your ideal speaking rate.

The size of the audience you are presenting to – can affect your speaking rate. Volume is related to the distance between you, the speaker, and your listeners. The amount of surrounding noise should also be taken into consideration. Speakers should also realize that their voice sounds louder than their listeners.

They must learn to control their vocal sound to ensure it is communicative.  Your emotions are also communicated to your listeners through your voice. Volume and tone also play an essential role in emotionally connecting with your listeners.  The characteristics of your vocal quality and vocal variety make you a more exciting speaker when you are on the platform.

Moving from conversations with friends and family to public speaking, you must recognize your rate and pitch as a speaker. In private settings, we all speak faster and use language loosely. As a result, we slur sounds, drop syllables, and develop bad speaking habits.  And although those lazy speaking habits may be accepted by many as your communication style, they seriously undermine your credibility as a serious speaker if or when they are taken to the speaking platform.

When speaking to audiences, it is essential to open your mouth wider to force your lips and tongue to form your consonants firmly. It is also necessary to achieve the usual standards of pronunciation. Form your sounds carefully to meet your audience’s expectations.

You may have a “foreign accent” – we all have one. Your articulation and grammatical arrangements of words determine your dialect. However, many audiences will find the sound of your voice exciting and entertaining when you deliver your enunciation with crispness and precision.

Speakers should also alter their speaking rate to match their ideas. To provoke thoughtfulness, slow down. Quicken the pace to stimulate tension. A varied pace keeps your audience’s attention riveted on your speech. Changing your pitch is also important. Level, range, and variation are three aspects of pitch that affect your communication. 

What is your optimum pitch? Are you habitually a soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, or in the base range? Generally, higher pitches communicate excitement and lower pitches create a sense of control or solemnity. Adjust your pitch to fit the emotion you wish to express. And remember to use the six emotions to which all humans respond – Happiness, Sadness, Anger, Fear, Surprise, and Disgust.

Stress is another important factor that should be observed. Stress is how sounds, syllables, and words are accented. Without vocal stress, we all will sound like computers. Vocal stress is achieved through vocal emphasis – how we accent or attack words. Stress can also change or affect the meaning of words in a sentence. And finally, the power of the pause.

Pauses are the intervals of silence between or within words, phrases, and sentences. The placement of a pause in a presentation is most important. When placed before a critical idea or at the climax of a story, it can create suspense. When placed after a significant point, it can add emphasis. Silence can also send your message.

Pauses help speakers eliminate unnecessary words that make verbal clutter and meaningless fillers. Do not be afraid of silence. Pauses allow speakers to stress important ideas. However, audiences may find it distracting, manipulating, and over-rehearsed if overused.

These are just a few areas all speakers should work on as they move from casual everyday communications to speaking platforms. And as they continue to develop as a speaker, if they focus on one development area each time, they step onto the speaking platform. Over time, they will see the great thoughts they continue to share form stronger interpersonal bonds that allow their great ideas to become the values and actions of those with whom they have communicated.

Author: HenryOMiller

Henry joined Toastmasters in 1997. He is presently a member of 4 Toastmasters clubs; two in Santa Cruz and two in San Jose. He is a DTM-4. Henry is an executive speech coach, humorist, and speechwriter. He is also a musician and a lyricist​ whose speechwriting approach is similar to his approach to songwriting.

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