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May 2024
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The Danger of Vocal Intensity

By Bill Brown, DTM

Expressiveness in a speech is best when it is natural and organic. I find it helpful to break it into its various components; that way it is more of a series of techniques that we can employ. Of the nine different dimensions of vocal variety, intensity is the one that can do real damage to your message. (The other eight dimensions are: volume, pitch, pace, pause, emotion, energy, character voices and tonal quality).

In most of the other dimensions, you don’t damage your message, you just don’t have the greatest effect. If the various techniques to emphasize your message are not fully utilized, your message may not have as strong an impact, but it can still get through. If you don’t have enough energy, your audience may drift away, but they are still only neutral toward you. Intensity, however, has the potential to push them away.

This one is different from all of the other dimensions. Your speech is better if you have the other eight. With intensity, more times than not, your speech is better if you do not have it. If you do use it, do so sporadically. Give your audience a chance to rest.

Yes, intensity can be good—if it is intentional, if it serves a purpose. But all too often it is inherent and constant in your speaking style, and that creates tension in your audience’s mind. They may be thinking, “I don’t like this message.” Or worse, “I don’t like this person.”

Intensity has its place, but it does have its dark side. Be aware of its negative potential. Be alert to its possible presence in your speeches. Be prepared to make any changes that might be necessary in your speaking style to moderate or eliminate it.

This article was reprinted from Bill Brown’s Speech Delivery Tips email series.


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