It is said that our strongest tool as a speaker is our voice. Your voice acts as a partner with your body and the content to communicate your message. When you speak, your voice is the primary link between you and your listeners. It is the medium of your message. 

While voice is important, vocal variety is even more critical in effective speech delivery. Vocal variety is the way you use your voice to create interest, excitement, and emotional involvement. It is accomplished by varying your pitch, volume, and timing. Not only should you use vocal variety; but you should consider inflections which are another important characteristic of speaking. An inflection is a raised pitch – for example, a high note used to add emphasis to a word.

One of my goals as a speaker is to immediately connect with my audience. I do this by having a smile on my face because smiles convey a sense of warmth. I also try to start my speech with a strong voice so that I can immediately convey to my audience that I am excited to be giving the speech. It is important not to be monotonous because you will lose your audience very quickly. Keep in mind when you speak, your voice reflects your psychological and emotional state of mind.

Listed below are 3 ways that will immediately improve your speaking voice.

  1. Vary your Pitch

You want to be sure to vary your pitch when you deliver your speech. Pitch refers to how high or low your voice is. When you want to convey excitement you will want to use a high pitch. A low pitch should be used when you want to express thoughtfulness or sadness. You can also use pitch to stress a point. For example; in one of my speeches I raised my pitch to show how anxious I was because I could not find my toddler. I ended the delivery of this thought with my voice being lowered to almost a whisper to convey my sadness. The contrast of high pitch with a low pitch immediately after was considered very effective by my evaluator.

  1. Slow your Pace

Your pace refers to the speed at which you speak.  If you speak too fast it becomes difficult for the audience to follow what you are saying.  While your pace might be fast at the beginning since you are nervous you will want to quickly slow down. The most effective speaking rate (or rate)  is somewhere between 125-160 words a minute.  Rate refers to the number of words you speak per minute. Except when you are slowing down to emphasize an important point you should endeavor to speak at this rate. 

  1. Add Pauses

It is said that silence is golden. You can use a pause to add impact to your words. I can’t stress enough the importance of a pause at critical moments during your speech. Here are 3 occasions where you will want to use a pause:

  • To emphasize a critical or main point. You will want to pause BEFORE you deliver this point because it will allow your audience to become tuned to what you are about to say. Similarly, the use of a pause AFTER a statement lets the audience know that what you shared was important and it also gives them time to digest the information
  • A pause can separate ideas and can serve as punctuation telling your audience that you have completed your thought
  • A pause allows you to inhale a breath

Just like the use of body language is important in a speech, the use of voice is also as important. By your voice, you can influence others and make a big impact on the content of your speech. Keep this Chinese proverb in mind when you deliver your next speech:  “The tongue can paint what the eyes can’t see.” 


Written by Rovina Suri, Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM), of Cupertino Toastmasters Club