Business speakers often complain that their delivery seems too flat or monotone, and it’s a problem that can kill effective communication. Here are some strategies my clients use to become more interesting and engaging speakers. But first, an illustration.
I once had the privilege of seeing the pianist Lang Lang play the Beethoven Piano Concert #3 with The Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Now, I have seen many pianists perform with the TSO, and of course, they are all fantastic, but the level of expressiveness Lang Lang brought to the performance was remarkable to me. Every note seemed to be shaped and molded to say something unique and important.
So even though I had no familiarity with that particular piece of music, the performance was compelling because Lang Lang took the black and white notes on the page and turned them into music. His own music for that particular moment. There’s a lesson here for speakers aspiring to effective communication.
So many speakers get up and give us nothing but words, words, words, words. They might as well print the speech and let us read it. Furthermore, even speakers who mean well, who are making an effort to engage their listeners are often unaware of how they are actually coming across. They think they are being expressive. They feel like they are fully engaged, but they are not putting out as much as they think, so their delivery is still flat and monotone. Consequently important communication fails to make and impact. Nobody listens, nobody cares, and nobody takes action. Trying to be more expressive is not the remedy for monotone speech.
Expressiveness can be created by consciously varying rate, pitch, loudness and tone quality. When you are trying to be more expressive, the impression is false and somehow amateur. Your speech comes across as self-conscious and inauthentic. Creating the right conditions and allowing the right thing to happen are the correct approaches to expressive communication. As a human being, you are by nature interesting and expressive if you can get out of your own way and let it out.
The first skill for expressive communication is to breathe deeply into your belly before you speak. Deep breathing connects you to your inner experience. If you learn to breathe well as you speak, you will automatically be expressive. I won’t have to teach it, and you won’t have to think about it.
The second communication skill to develop is the ability to speak at a deliberate rate. Fast speech tends to flatten your delivery and make you monotone because variations become difficult at high speed. Think of a car driving through a slalom course. Speaking at a moderate rate gives your voice more time and room to play. Also, speaking at a slower pace helps you be more present to yourself and to your listeners and that encourages expression.
The third skill important for expressive communication is to make a personal connection with your content. It’s not enough just to say the words. You must experience what you’re saying while you are saying it.
If you feel it, we will feel it, and when you feel something, you will be expressive. When you’re connected to yourself, breathing, connected to your message, experiencing what you’re saying, keeping the channel open by maintaining a relaxed rate of delivery, expressiveness emerges spontaneously and authentically. Your listeners are engaged and receptive. Important messages make an impact and communication comes to life.
For more information about effective communication, click the link below and download the free report and video series The Sound of Success.