Gary Genard's

Speak for Success!

"Be a voice not an echo." - Albert Einstein

Listening to Yourself: 3 Ways to Use Positive Feedback to Improve Your Public Speaking

Your own voice and body language can help improve your communication skills even as you're speaking. Here's how to listen to what they're saying!

Want to know about an easy-to-use tool that can dramatically improve your public speaking abilities?

You won’t have to do any research, and the materials you need are close at hand. In fact, they’re you. That is, you can use your own instrument—your voice, body language, and your speech itself—to discover important clues about becoming a more confident and polished communicator.

It’s all part of the amazing elements of public speaking that have to do with performance.

Want to combine great material with a dynamic performance? Learn how to connect with audiences and lead them to action. Download my essential cheat sheet, Great Speaking? — It's About Performance Over Content!

How Your Own Voice Can Make You Happier

A recent article on PsyBlog confirms a connection between your cognitive activity and your own emotional response. The piece, “You Can Feel Happier by Changing the Tone of Your Voice, Study Finds,” cites an experiment whose results were published this month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In this study, people’s recorded voices were subtly altered, and the results were played back to them. The speakers’ moods changed to correspond to whether they sounded happy, sad, or fearful based on the manipulated qualities of their voices.[1]

As PsyBlog states, the study suggests that we listen to our own voice to discover how we feel:

We take cues from what we hear in our own voice and this feeds back into our emotional state. So, trying to change how your voice sounds may help you feel happier.[2]

The implications seem obvious for public speaking: To achieve the emotional states you want to convey to an audience—confidence, excitement, pride, scepticism, or any others—you can help yourself by investing that emotion in your voice. By hearing yourself, you’ll create a positive loop that strengthens your emotional state, making it clearer and more powerful to your audience. You’ll be taking a giant step toward engineering the response you’re looking for in listeners. Download my free cheat sheet to discover the 5 key tools of vocal dynamics you need to speak that effectively.

Your Body Language Can Improve Your Own Self-Confidence

Similarly, “listening” to your own body language can give you clues about how others perceive your public speaking performances. In this case, those clues can be obvious.

It works like this: in a conversation, body language is a two-way street, and nowhere is this truer than in public speaking. Though we all tend to be overly concerned with our own gestures when we’re giving a presentation, audiences are just as busy giving us signs we should be observing. Engagement, boredom, confusion, and disagreement are often well displayed by listeners, if we’re observant enough to notice it.

If you tell yourself you’re confident, and especially that you’ll be sure to give physical expression to what you’re saying, you’ll begin to broadcast that level of bodily self-assurance. (Amy Cuddy’s hugely viewed TED talk on “power poses” offers some tips along these lines.) When you do so, audiences will take note, their confidence in you will grow, and you’ll see their reactions. The result? More confidence and greater physical expressiveness on your part!

For more on this topic, see my article, How to Use Body Language to Improve Your Self-Confidence


Your Conscious and Unconscious Mind at Work in Public Speaking

Perhaps most interesting of all is the fact that speaking itself helps you to think.

We’ve all experienced this phenomenon—where at times we’re not aware of what we’re going to say until we've said it. The extraordinary human facility that links thought, production of sound, and vocal coloration through emotion—at blinding speed—is a powerful tool for achieving our intentions with others.

Sometimes, the process can be unconscious, as my own experience at the United Nations demonstrated. I was conducting a two-day workshop in speaking skills for diplomats that I'd first given at the U.N. the year before. As I waited for the delegates to arrive at the General Assembly building, I visited the men’s room down the hall and, as I always do, sat in a stall with the door closed to breathe and center myself for my performance.

When it was time to begin the workshop and I was introduced, I thanked the person, and heard myself saying, “You know you’re at the United Nations when the graffiti on the door to a stall in the men’s room reads ‘Fair trade now!’ As you know, graffiti usually offers an entirely different message in that location . . . but it reminded me of what a pleasure it is to be talking to some of the best speakers in the world, about some of the topics that matter most.”

Of course, I had noticed the message, filed it away in my subconscious, and didn’t give it another thought until the words were coming out of my mouth. The humorous opening received the chuckles I (apparently!) was hoping for, and it was a nice way to begin the workshop.

I think the lesson here is that you should trust this phenomenon, that you continue to formulate your ideas as you're speaking. We actually have many expressions for this, such as “thinking out loud,” “sounding people out,” and “saying what’s on your mind”. Sometimes we don't listen, though, searching for the perfect way to express our ideas rather than opting for something  that will serve the needs of the moment.

Think of it as one more feedback loop you can use to understand how you think and feel about the messages you're giving audiences.

Are you listening?  

You should follow me on Twitter here.

New Call-to-action


[1] Jean-Julien Aucouturier, Petter Johanson, Lars Hall, Rodrigo Segnini, Lolita Mercadie, and Katsumi Watanabe, “Covert Digital Manipulation of Vocal Emotion Alter [sic] Speakers’ Emotional States in a Congruent Direction.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, January 26, 2016, vol. 113 no. 4.

[2] Jeremy Dean, “You Can Feel Happier by Changing the Tone of Your Voice, Study Finds.” PsyBlog.


Tags: body language,communication skills,voice and diction,improved public speaking,voice improvement,speech improvement,vocal improvement,positive feedback,Dr. Gary Genard

Subscribe to the blog

Follow Gary Genard