As a presenter, do you deliver data . . . or give life to your ideas through how you sound? Here's how to improve your voice for persuasiveness and power!
From a recent Wall Street Journal article on feats of memory, comes a reminder of how to make an impression with your voice. Well, it really needs to be put more strongly than that: to use your voice to influence people in a lasting way.
Memorization vs. moving people: sounds like a clear-cut dichotomy, doesn't it? Actually, the subject of the WSJ article is in an ideal position to discuss (and he does) how memories can become emotional experiences.
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And when it comes to creating memorable experiences as a speaker, what we're talking about more than anything else is the voice. So, let's unpack how improving your voice can help you speak with persuasiveness and power.
Use Your Head to Help Your Voice
The simple yet profound truth about reaching audiences in a way that makes a difference, is that people matter more than data. Okay, everybody already knows that, right? Then why do so many speakers fall in love with their information rather than their listeners?
In the WSJ article, 'memory athlete' Nelson Dellis reminds us that "a piece of information is just a piece of information. Only a person can give it meaning." To put that in neurological terms, human beings pay far more attention—and retain much more reliably—data that's connected to an emotional experience for them. (You can easily tell from this why weaving your data into a compelling story is a public speaking winner, can't you?)
Your first step to making what you're saying come to life, then, doesn't take place in your voice box, but in your brain. If you tell yourself, concerning anything you say that your primary focus is to get across what you actually mean (and not the raw data by itself), your voice will begin to take on the color it needs. When you as speaker clearly believe in the importance of what you're saying—and when you're trying to persuade with all your might—your voice begins to reflect that passion and commitment. Concern yourself instead with delivering data and, well, you'll sound monotonous: the steady-state of too many presenters.
Allow Audiences a Glimpse of Your Inner Life
Consider the above, then, as the strategic element of gaining a more influential voice. What about the practical aspect, i.e., your actual performance? Here's where you need to get comfortable with being completely naked on stage.
I'm speaking figuratively, of course—but not by much. That's because you need to be willing to strip away the layers we all tend to hide behind if you want to be an effective speaker. How does that apply to the voice? Since the voice is your sound, you may realize that it's been hiding behind the information you're delivering, and it needs to come out where we can see it (nakedness, right?).
How many speakers, at meetings, in presentations, and at conferences, discuss vital data in a lifeless voice bearing no relation to the content's significance? The truth is, you need to pour yourself, i.e., your personality, into what you're trying to get across when you share information with us! How else will we hear your belief in its importance, your own excitement about it, and your commitment to your own ideas?
To Create Meaning, Give Your Data a Voice
Think of it as giving your data a voice. As our memory expert reminds us, information is only information. It may be of great importance, but it can't accomplish what you can when you tell us why it should all matter to us.
You have nothing to lose in this scenario, and something enormous to gain: literally a greater voice in the decisions that are being made. And your data will be able to speak with a voice it never had until now.
 James Taranto, “How to Store Data Along Memory Lane,” The Wall Street Journal, January 19-20, 2019, A11.
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