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4 Characteristics of Good Public Speaking

The voice is a powerful motivator and influences your audience on many levels. Your vocal tone is considered an element of body language as it doesn’t directly relate to your content or word choice. The elements of one’s voice are broken down into several categories and by changing one them, your overall message can change dramatically. Think about a time when someone said he or she was sorry for something but his or her tone didn’t seem sincere. Think about how sarcasm is conveyed.

Tension, shallow breathing and nerves all tend to flatten out your vocal variety and thereby blunt your intentions. Additionally, reading from someone else’s script, not paying attention to what you’re saying or being unclear as to why you are saying it, also effects your inflections and prevents you from sounding sincere.

Ideally as a speaker you are connected to your overall goal or objective and are clear on what your intentions are for your supporting material. If you are clear on your action or intention then your voice naturally will reflect it. Sometimes, if the intention isn’t that dramatic, it’s useful as an exercise to consciously change your vocal intonations to add some interest to your subject. This is working from the “outside in” and can help you break any vocal habits. Below is a list of the vocal elements and what they can convey:


Lower or deeper tones denote: authority, strength, masculine energy, tired, bored.

High tone: excitement, enthusiasm, emotional, feminine energy, anxiety, tension

Even tone: controlled, in command, monotone, unconnected to material, unemotional or covering up.


Obviously we need to hear you, however…

Louder can: emphasize a point, create energy, wake up the audience, show authority and command an audience. OR it can overpower an audience, be too demanding and come across as berating.

Softer volume can: create drama and emphasize a point, force your audience to listen intently and move in towards the speaker, denote a serious, somber tone. This can be terribly annoying to an audience if they can’t hear you, it shows timidity or covering up (not wanting to be heard.)


Ideal pace: 150 – 180 WPM, including pauses.

Fast: excited, exuberant, young, has a lot to say, doesn’t want to waste time OR unorganized, overbearing, unintelligible, confusing.

Slow: deliberate, in command, authority, taking special care to be right, emotional OR lying, too much thought, can put an audience to sleep.

Even pace = monotone!


Stress key points (almost like an underline) before or after a word or point, give your audience time to process your point, work well between points, add drama, can wake up an audience. OR can create a halting tone, confuse the audience, show timidity.


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