Volume is perhaps the best tool for achieving vocal variety, especially when it comes to emphasis. By a slight increase in volume, you can stress or accentuate your key thought within a sentence. I’m not referring to shouting, or even raising your voice to a high level.
There can be a place for that, however, especially if you are trying to indicate anger or alarm. In addition to emphasis, alarm and anger, volume can also be used to indicate intensity or joy. In fact, a common idiom is “shouting for joy.” Loudness is not the only way to use volume. Getting very quiet is also an effective technique.
This can be used to indicate calmness, apprehensiveness, tenderness and even having a secret. And just as you can indicate emphasis or anger with high volume, you can also accomplish the same aim with a comparatively lower volume. In fact, a quiet volume, combined with a slow pace, sarcastic tone and gritting of the teeth can show, quite effectively and dramatically, a seething anger.
One of my favorite techniques is to build to a crescendo on a key point, pause, and then continue the thought in a softer-than-normal volume. The contrast can be very dramatic, if that is your intent. One note of caution here. Volume is best used as a contrast to your basic delivery— a word or phrase at a time. If you deliver your entire speech at a high volume, you will lose your audience.
Volume has many uses in a speech. Enjoy using it—and exploring its many possibilities.
This article was reprinted from Bill Brown’s Speech Delivery Tips email series.