Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

Toastmasters Project 6 - Vocal Variety Will Help



Public speaking is often listed as people’s number one fear. It’s so nerve wracking for many people, they do whatever they can to avoid it. For those who want to overcome their fear of public speaking, however, Toastmasters is an excellent option. Founded in 1924 in the United States, it has since expanded to thousands of individually run member clubs worldwide. Individual groups form their own clubs based on the Toastmasters program, which improves communication and leadership skills in a positive environment.

The first manual you get with Toastmasters is the Competent Communication Manual, which goes over the basics of public speaking - such as organizing your speech and body language. Project Six of the CC Manual is called Vocal Variety and that’s what I’ll be discussing in this article. As you can guess from the title, this project focuses on improving your vocal variety, pitch, and tone to reach your audience. Using our voices effectively is one of the most important parts of becoming an effective public speaker. With the Competent Communication Manual and these tips, you can have a much bigger impact on your audience with your voice.


Project Your Voice Clearly - Without Being Too Loud

Obviously one of the most important aspects of public speaking is using our voices clearly. Like with visual aids, a good rule for the Vocal Variety project is to speak for the back of the audience.  If you’re practically whispering and only the front of your audience can hear you, it’s going to lessen your impact.  If you’re too loud, you risk annoying your audience. Like with Toastmasters Project 5 - Your Body Speaks - a common misperception that people have is that you have to be exaggerated and goofy to make an impact. That’s not so - subtle control of your voice also does wonders for your speech. Focus on making your voice audible and clear without being too noisy.

Pause for Dramatic Emphasis

Knowing when to stop is just as important for your vocal variety as being eloquent. Depending on the content of your speech, adding a dramatic pause adds to the emotional impact. Even if you’re not telling an emotional story it’s a good idea to be able to control your talking on the stage. Rambling on without pausing, regardless of your subject matter, gives a strong impression of nervousness. Questions to the audience are also a good way to pause and break things up, and can also add  interactivity to your presentation - making your viewers feel more involved.

Character Voices Are Good - Depending on Your Speech

If you’re giving a humorous speech, adding character voices can be an excellent way to add some vocal variety to your project. Don’t worry if you can’t do voices like the pros - even some amateur quality voices will shake things up nicely. When I did a Toastmasters speech on my , I used voices to mimic children with great effect. On the other hand, if you’re doing a more serious speech, then it may not be appropriate to do cartoon voices, which will cheapen the impact you’re trying to have on your audience.


Avoid Monotone - Lower and Raise Your Voice When Necessary

The name of this Toastmasters project is Vocal Variety - so of course staying with one pitch or tone throughout your presentation is discouraged. Raising your voice, if done well, can be a great way to add emphasis to your important points. Depending on the context of your speech, lowering your voice can also be effective - it can be great for adding tension to dramatic storytelling, for example.

Avoid Coffee Before Your Speech

Coffee, soda, and other similar drinks are delicious and give you a great energy boost - but they also dehydrate you, and dry your throat. Try avoiding them before your speech if possible. Drink plenty of water to keep your voice clear and to hydrate yourself before you speech. Having a glass of water on hand on the stage isn’t also a bad idea, particularly later on when you tackle longer speeches in the Toastmasters Advanced Manuals.

When it comes to overcoming your fear of public speaking, people tend to focus on other aspects of giving presentations - such as body language. Your voice is every bit as important, however, and without good vocal projection you risk boring your audience. Toastmasters Project 6 - Vocal Variety - will give you the tips and experience you need to take your public speaking to the next level. 

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