If you’re feeling nervous about giving an upcoming presentation, use your voice to your advantage. In other words, as you speak, make your voice sound like you are enjoying yourself even if you’re under stress. Easier said than done? Perhaps. But the sound of your voice will convey confidence so that even if you are nervous you won’t sound nervous.
A recent study looking at “vocal emotion” showed that a person’s voice carries a great deal of emotional information. The tone of your voice can influence your mood and that of those around you. So if you want to feel happier and confident, try sounding happier and confident. This applies not only to everyday life, but also to those nerve-wracking times when you’re giving a presentation.
In the study, researchers asked participants to read a story aloud. They then used a digital audio platform to manipulate participants’ voices, making them sound happier, sadder, or more fearful. When people listened to the altered voices, their moods reflected the emotion the voice was expressing. When the presenter sounded fearful, the listeners were afraid. When the presenter sounded happy, the listeners were happy too.
How can this information help you when you’re giving a presentation? As the study suggests, not only do our vocal tones influence how we’re feeling, but they can also influence those listening to us. If you have an important speech to give and you wake up feeling nervous, you can shift your mood quite naturally by practicing the tips below:
1. Speak in a higher pitch. Think of pitch as reflecting the notes of the musical scale. Practice moving your voice up and down the scale. The higher your pitch, the more excited and enthusiastic you sound. But make sure to balance your high pitch with low tones as well. Lower pitch shows credibility, knowledge, and seriousness. It’s the balance of high/low pitch sounds that creates variety and interest.
2. Speak with greater inflection. Put more force and power in your voice by emphasizing certain words. Inflection makes you sound passionate, and passion is stimulating. Need some practice? Say: “I love giving speeches!” Now say it 4 times putting greater emphasis on only one word each time.
3. Speak more slowly. Using a slower speech pattern makes you sound confident and calms your nervous system. Slow delivery invites listener engagement, too. No one enjoys listening to a nervous, speedy speaker they can barely understand. Speaking slower can help you sound happier, self-assured, and confident.
4. Use words and phrases that frame your thoughts in a positive way. Include powerful and emotional words so you reach both the hearts and minds of your listeners.
Keeping your voice positive and upbeat can influence your mood and rub off on your listeners as well. You have the ability to change how you feel and how you come across to others. Practice the vocal skills above and you’ll not only sound more confident, but feel more confident too.