Learn to Communicate and Get Noticed

Whether it is giving a presentation at work or convincing your teenager of the importance of coming home before curfew, being able to speak effectively is an invaluable skill. There are many elements to making a good presentation—knowing how to provide the proper emphasis is one of the key ones.
Inexperienced speakers tend to give emphasis to a word or phrase in one way only: by raising vocal volume. That works, but it’s only one way to emphasize the point. The fact is that any change of volume or pitch grabs the audience’s auditory attention and creates an emphasis. For maximum impact, a good speaker finds a variety of ways to bring attention to his points.
There are a number of ways to stress a key word in your sentence, making sure that people hear what is important:

  • Instead of getting louder you can speak softer. While increasing volume on the important words is the typical way to underscore those words, making those key words softer can draw the listener’s attention even more.
  • Speak the specific word you want to stress more slowly, dragging it out a bit. Any word spoken more slowly than others stands out.
  • Reduce the pace as you approach the key word. The sudden slow-down adds intensity. So does a pause just before you speak a word.

You can improve the effectiveness of your speaking by playing with it at home. Take a section of text and try the different alternatives, looking at how would you could make the emphasis. Would you raise or lower your voice, slow down and stretch the word or words out, pause before the key word or words, or some combination? This kind of self-questioning can be one of the most fun parts of planning a presentation. It both forces you to think about the relative importance of points in the talk and gives you a chance to direct your own performance. It’s also a way of demonstrating care for the audience through attention to detail. A really good speaker does everything she she can to make her message lively, interesting, and entertaining.
Gary Michael, The Talk Doc
This class is no longer offered at CFU, but we hope you found the information useful.  Visit www.freeu.com for current offerings.