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‹ View all articles 30th January 2014

Can you hear me at the back? 3 ways to get your volume just right in public speaking.

Public Speaking Essentials

The V in VOICE is for Volume.

The volume at which you speak is rather important to your speech giving. It's one of the "have to get right" factors when you speak in public. Your audience won't be able to get all the wondrous words you have to give to them if they can't hear you or if you blow their hair back with excessive amplification.

Think about  your voice. Are you a loud talker or soft spoken? If you have a booming voice then you're in luck. Your audience will hear you loud and clear. Just be mindful to not blow them away, especially if you're using a microphone.

Here are the three ways to get your volume set to just the right level.

Volume tip 1: Don't be traditional

"Can you hear me at the back?" is a common question speakers will ask of their audience. If you have absolutely NO other way to find out then you could ask them this. Asking this leads to a few drawbacks.

  • Start with a bang not a whispering whimper. Your very first words are your chance to start your speech with a bang or a flop. Asking "Can you hear me in the back?" isn't a very tempting or attractive first line. Whenever you possibly can, do your sound check before the audience enters the room. Ask a fellow speaker or associate to stand at the the back of the room and help you with your sound levels.  Keep in mind that when a room is full, your volume will be diminished slightly so adjust accordingly and project your voice a bit more.
  • Anchor yourself. Many times even if they CAN hear you at the back at the beginning of your speech, your voice will become softer the further you get into your talk. It's very improbable that your audience will TELL you they can't hear and will most likely stop paying attention to you and begin to pay attention to their smart phones. It's too much of a fight for an audience to try to pay attention when someone speaks too softly. Get yourself a trusted person in the back of the room (an "anchor"). Agree upon a gesture they are to use when your speaking becomes too quiet. That person can be your port in the volume storm.

Volume tip 2. Project your voice.

Many are able to speak a bit louder then they thought they could with some effort and practice. Yet at times it can take a vocal specialist to help get some to where they need to be. There are a few ways to increase your projection.

  • Develop the confidence to make yourself feel 'bigger'. Bigger... not louder. Imagine your volume as your message and yourself filling the entire room, versus shouting. Shouting isn't appealing to any audience, especially those unfortunate souls in the front row.
  • Relax your vocal chords. Practice humming and yawning to release tension and stretch these golden muscles. Hold your confidence deep inside you, push your breath up from your diaphragm and speak from there, instead of speaking from your throat. Picture a target at the back of the room and aim your words at this target.

Volume tip 3. Is this thing on?

Microphone it up. If you have an audience of 50 or more or if there are other distracting noises nearby, try to utilize a microphone. Even though it can be strange to hear your own voice reverberating, the audience being able to actually HEAR you is worth the risk.  If the audience even exhibits the slightest struggle to hear you, you will lose them.

Remember that volume is one of the most important tools in your speaker's toolkit. If they cant' hear you, you're finished before you start.

More information on how to master the art of public speaking? 

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