Why we sound monotonous. And how to change that!

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Remember the Father of the Bride who droned on and on? The Groom who you listened to, whilst struggling to stay awake? The Best Man’s speech that raised eyebrows around your table? They all fell into the trap of not questioning why we sound boring even when we have interesting things to say.

We’ve written much about the content  to keep an audience alert and interested.  But what about the noise they hear?  How does that sound affect our ability to listen?

Avoiding the monotone

The biggest contributor to audience boredom is the monotone.  It can flatten even the most inspiring topic into something dull.  It’s characterised by a flat, repetitive vocal pitch with a complete lack of variation in tone.

When we listen, we sense the vocal variation or colour. Otherwise known as intonation. We intuitively alter the intonation of our voice, using low, mid and high tones,to help express to our listener exactly what we want to communicate.Particularly when we are relaxed.  We’ll describe a BRILLIANT party; the i-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-y s-l-o-w train journey.

Inflection is an amazing device that we convey naturally and with complete and utter ease. Socially, it’s how we guess the meaning of a word or phrase; how we judge mood and tone.  And it’s a central element in the chemistry between two people.

Try it!

Removing inflection removes our personality.  It’s why we sound boring.  Try saying “this is amazing” without inflection.  It could mean anything.  Sarcasm.Excitement.  Irony.  It’s left to our audience to guess – if they are still awake!

Not only does lack of colour in your voice create confusion, it also suggests you don’t care –however untrue that may be.  It leaves an energy vacuum and, ultimately, a sense of complete and utter boredom.

When an advert comes on TV we are drawn to the pantomime inflection and the forced colour.  This is an extreme example of course, but it’s not a coincidence that an industry that makes its money persuading us to do things leans heavily on the art of inflection.

The problem is that we are most likely to revert to monotone at the worst possible moment; i.e. under stress, in front of a large audience.

Stress kills the voice

In our experience,clients who sound monotonous in front of an audience sound completely different in private.  Stress suffocates their voice.  And a timid public speaker will typically be more inhibited that someone who exudes confidence.  It’s a problem that snowballs.

What to do

We can’t magic away the jitters, but there are some very simple tricks to create energy through inflection.

  1. Connect to your subject matter. If you’re not thinking about what you’re saying, you’ll sound disconnected and heartless. Think about it; believe it and you’ll find it much easier to deliver a line with thought and sensitivity!
  2. Think of your voice as an instrument. It needs to be tuned and warmed-up before you speak.  Your voice is like the rest of your body – it needs a stretch before being put to use!  Vocal exercises can bring you to life. Try humming from a low to a high note without pushing or straining.  Repeat up and down the scale.  You’ll immediately notice you have access to a much broader vocal range.
  3. Lastly, breathe! If you’re taking in enough breath to fuel a sentence then you’ll be able to use your voice in much more interesting ways. Lazy (nervous) breathing means we won’t have the ability to use emphasis, colour, find sentence flow, or project – so it’s generally best avoided if you want to make a good impression!

There’s so much more that can be done to help a flat, monotonous speaker become a captivating and charismatic one. The key is to help you speak under the spotlight as you when relaxed and engaged.

We can help

Alys would be delighted to work with you(discreetly) face-to-face or via face-time to put the colour into your voice!  Call her on 020 3651 7352.

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