Effective Delivery: Vocal & Non-Verbal

Effective delivery has two aspects:  vocal delivery and non-verbal communication.

Vocal Delivery

You may have a well-developed presentation, one that you’re excited about, one that distills your main ideas into memorable slides, one that meets your audience’s needs while presenting your informed viewpoint, one that will advance knowledge or process within or outside of your organization.  Yet if you do not deliver that presentation well, it will not have the effects you intend.  As legendary advertising creative director William Bernbach noted, “It’s not just what you say that stirs people. It’s the way that you say it.”

Vocal presentation matters in any type of presentation: in-person, online, real-time, asynchronous.  Vocal variety affects how you are heard. Here are a few tips for effective verbal presentation from presentation skills training consultant Gavin Meikle, who identifies key elements, common errors, and good practices to develop greater vocal impact [1].

  1. Volume – Develop your range and vary your volume. To help put this in perspective, consider the saying, “A good speech needs light and shade.”
  2. Pitch – Research suggests a general preference for lower vocal pitch, with participants ascribing more positive personality traits to lower pitched voices. That’s not to say that you should artificially lower your voice, but simply try to be conscious if your voice tends to rise when you speak, and try to modulate it.
  3. Resonance – Resonance refers to the fullness of the sound.  For example, when you’re nervous, your voice may tend to become “tighter.” Try deep breathing to re-establish vocal resonance before a presentation.
  4. Pace – Be aware of and manage your speaking speed. It’s been found that people who moderate their pace when speaking to groups are thought to have greater credibility, and authority.
  5. Pause – Consider well-placed pauses to emphasize information, and/or to give your audience a brief chance to absorb key information.
  6. Intonation – This describes changes in vocal tone within a sentence. In order to achieve the desired effect, use the three common intonation patterns appropriately.
    • Ending a spoken sentence with a rising tone indicates a question or suggestion.
    • Ending a spoken sentence with a descending tone is generally interpreted as an order.
    • A flat intonation is used to indicate a statement.

View the following video, which expands on these vocal presentation tips.

Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal differs from verbal communication in a few ways.

  • Verbal communication uses one channel (words); non-verbal communication uses multiple channels (gestures, pauses/silence, environment, posture/stance, appearance).
  • Verbal communication is usually linear (sentences, discussions, and articles start, develop, and end); non-verbal communication is continuous (in constant motion and relative to context).
  • Verbal communication is conscious (you consider and choose your words); non-verbal communication can be both conscious and unconscious (you usually don’t make a conscious decision to smile or laugh, but you may make a conscious decision to dress a certain way).

Non-verbal communication – the information and cues you emit through your gestures, appearance, stance, and more – is just as important to consider as verbal communication when you present to an audience. When we first see each other, before anyone says a word, we are already sizing each other up. Within the first few seconds we have made judgments about each other based on what we wear, our physical characteristics, even our posture. Are these judgments accurate? That is hard to know without context, but we can say that nonverbal communication certainly affects first impressions, for better or worse. When a presenter and audience first meet, nonverbal communication in terms of space, dress, and even personal characteristics can contribute to assumed expectations. The expectations might not be accurate or even fair, but it is important to recognize that they will be present. There is truth in the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Since beginnings are fragile times, your attention to aspects you can control, both verbal and nonverbal, will help contribute to the first step of forming a relationship with your audience. Your eye contact with audience members, use of space, and degree of formality will continue to contribute to that relationship.

Non-verbal communication also factors into online, real-time and asynchronous presentations with pauses, silence, and/or background noise; the image you project with your identifying photograph; and your gestures, posture, appearance, and environment visible via the video option in conferencing tools.

The following videos illustrate important aspects of non-verbal communication for presentations.

One Big Presentation Tip

Practice.  It really does help you become aware of how you come across to others in terms of look and language.

The following video discusses the importance of practicing and reviews oral presentation concepts, within the context of doing a presentation for a job interview (although the tips work for any oral presentation context).

[1] Meikle, Gavin. “Six Elements of Vocal Variety and How to Master Them.” Inter-Activ. 18 Jun 2017. Web. 25 Jun 2018.