When you’re due to speak in public there are a whole host of factors to consider when it comes to planning your speech, and your vocal qualities should definitely be among them. To help you get an insight into this impactful aspect of public speaking, let's take a closer look at some of the most important vocal qualities, and why they matter.
What are vocal qualities?
Vocal qualities are speech variations that change the way a voice sounds. They relate to a speaker’s breath, air pressure, phonation, and any other factor that changes the way that the speaker sounds.
Some key vocal qualities
Vocal tone is unique to a speaker, just like a fingerprint. You can have a soft tone, a friendly tone, a sharp tone – it’s something we can manipulate and change depending on what we want to achieve with our voice in any scenario. It’s also something that can vary widely depending on the language being spoken, for instance, the German and Dutch languages are typically considered to have a harsher tone when compared to French or Italian. When speaking or presenting, tone of voice is how your listeners read your emotions and intentions, so it’s really important to make sure you’re aware of your tone and how you’re coming across.
When speaking you don’t want your words sounding drawn out, too fast, or disjointed. You should practice the rhythmic aspect of speech along with gesture and body language, because you can match these skills together to create a really effective speaking style, creating emphasis where it is required.
When your voice comes out of your body, it’s reverberated by air moving through your vocal cords, and what happens to the sound from that point on is called resonance. Is the resonance of your voice nasal? Is it deep in your throat? Is it reedy? Whiney? It requires much work, but resonance is changeable, so if you don’t have your desired resonance naturally, it’s definitely something you can improve on with professional help and practice.
Inflection is how we say a word. Which letters or sounds are emphasized? Does the word rise in the beginning, or at the end? Is the word a question or a bold answer? Using the right inflection is obviously important in public speaking because it helps the listener understand both the emotion and meaning of the words. The best voiceover artists are highly effective at playing with inflection exactly because it’s so impactful.
Tempo, as you probably know, is simply how fast or slow you speak. When speaking, this is extremely important because your listeners might not be able to understand you if you’re speaking too quickly. Conversely, speak too slowly, and you could find your listeners losing interest. Tempo and rhythm go hand-in-hand so they should always be considered together rather than in isolation.
Texture incorporates a whole range of vocal qualities in one. It can relate to how round, thick, smooth, or gravelly a voice might sound. It’s these kinds of qualities that make a voice instantly recognizable. For example; Brian Blessed has a very round, bassy, diaphragmatic voice. David Mitchell's voice is very nasal, low, and whiny. Miriam Margolyes has a voice that is very soft on the tongue, well pronounced, a little bit nasal, and with a slight playful quality to it. When presenting or speaking in public, texture is really important because it impacts how you’re remembered.
Consider your vocal qualities when it comes to your next public speaking engagement
What we want you to take away from this article is that vocal qualities matter. You could spend hours upon hours considering the script, subject matter, and production quality of your next public speaking engagement or presentation to ensure it engages with your audience and accurately conveys the intended message, but if you fail to give adequate consideration to your vocal qualities, then all of that work could be in vain.
Hopefully, with a little more understanding of vocal qualities, you’ll feel better able to build the perfect voice for your public speaking engagements.