By Bryan Flanagan Sales & Presentation Skills Educator
In Part 1 of this series we discussed the “visual” key to effective presentations. In this second installment, we will address the “verbal.” There are two vital skills within this area, those being voice and padding, and within those skills, we can break it down even further.
First, we will evaluate the three areas of voice: volume, inflection, and use of the pause.
- Volume This involves both raising and lowering the volume. Mark Twain wrote that if you want someone to listen to you, you should whisper. Whispering compels the listener to pay more attention. You should look for opportunities within your presentation to raise or drop your volume for impact.
- Inflection Inflection allows you to emphasize words or phrases for meaning or stronger impact. You can change the entire meaning of a sentence by changing the words you emphasize. Let’s look at different meanings of the following sentence based on different emphasis.
“I didn’t say he stole her money.” I implied but did not verbalize it.
“I didn’t say he stole her money.” Someone else stole her money.
“I didn’t say he stole her money.” I am implying that he did something with her money, but he did not steal it.
“I didn’t say he stole her money.” He stole someone else’s money.
“I didn’t say he stole her money.” He stole something else of hers.
Practice emphasizing different words for impact and to add meaning.
- Using the pause Some do not like to pause while speaking because it may indicate a lack of preparation or focus. However, silence can be our friend. It is another tool that can add emphasis, it allows the audience to catch up to what we are saying, it can slow us down if necessary, and it can be used as a transition from one point to another. Do not be afraid of the pause. Use it in strategic places in your presentation.
Lastly, let’s take a look at how to eliminate the padding, which refers to any words, phrases, or sounds that distract or detract from your message—“um” and “you know,” for example. Most people struggle with padding in one form or another. Oftentimes, padding is the sound of thought. It is what we use as our search vehicle when we are thinking of the next word or phrase. Instead, however, we should learn to use the pause in this instance. To rid yourself of padding, you must first become aware of it. Listen to voicemails you record, or record conversations and evaluate yourself.
As with other areas in life, practice is the key to improvement. Good luck!