Public Speaking Success: Does Volume Matter?

Have you ever met anyone who is soft spoken? Are you soft spoken? One of the biggest challenges facing people who occasionally speak is the volume of their voices. Speak too loudly and you come across as too aggressive. Speak too softly, and you come across as too weak. Many executives (as well as regular folks) struggle with the latter – they’re soft spoken so when they address their teams, they appear weak.

Getting the right volume is tricky for a lot of folks. It depends on so many factors such as:

  • The size and layout of the room.
  • The number of people in the room.
  • Your position in relation to the audience.
  • If there’s background noise.
  • Whether you have amplification.

If you tend to have trouble with volume, there are two things that you can do. First, arrive early with a friend and have him or her sit in various places throughout the room while you give your speech. Have them signal you to tell you if you’re talking loud enough. Make a mental note of how loud you’re speaking so you can give your speech at that volume.

If that’s not an option, then you can simply ask people in the back if they can hear you shortly after you begin your talk. Yes, many so-called speaking experts tell you that this is a bad thing to do but they’re simply mistaken. It’s an act of courtesy to make sure that your audience can hear you and perfectly okay to ask as you begin your speech. Again, some people will tell you that you’ll miss that golden opportunity to grab the audience’s attention within the first six seconds. But even if you believe this myth and follow their bogus logic, you’re not going to capture anyone’s attention if they can’t hear you.

Many speakers (myself included) tend to drop off in volume as their talks progress. So if you have a friend in the audience, try to have him or her sit near the back and ask them to give you a visual clue if they’re having trouble hearing you. You don’t want to ask the audience more than once if they can hear you or it will become an annoyance. But it is okay to ask multiple at once, such as people on each side of the back row, if they can hear you when you begin.

Like most public speaking skills, this comes with practice. The more you become aware of the issue and the more you practice speaking at a louder volume during your speech prep, the sooner you’ll improve.

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