The power of a word. Why the role of voice in presentations is so important.
The strength of a public speech depends not so much on the content of the speech as on how it was delivered. Ancient orators noted this paradoxical fact. Even more surprising is that today, when people seem to be more rational, little has changed. The audience still perceives the timbre, emotionality, melody and other characteristics of the voice primarily, assigning only an auxiliary role to the content of speech. In presentations, this means that it is not enough to give facts about a product or solution; it is more important to deliver the information in an appealing way.
Voice as a factor of attraction
Many scientific studies have been devoted to the questions of how the voice, in isolation from the content of what is said, affects the perception of a speech. And they all, in fact, agree that the vocal characteristics of the speaker play a critical role not only in social life but also in commercial activities (for example, how they help or hinder sales). One study conducted in 2018 by Casey Clofstad and Rindy Anderson, professors at Florida Atlantic University, provided evidence that the pitch and strength of the voice significantly affect the way people perceive each other.
In particular, scientists analyzed the votes of people who took part in elections for various positions, and found that candidates with a lower voice, regardless of gender, all other things being equal, have significantly higher chances of winning. A certain timbre of voice is perceived as convincing, and even as “leadership” on a subconscious level. As various studies show, there is no direct connection between vocal qualities and actual human abilities. Thus, the voice is a very effective tool for creating an image and increasing attractiveness.
The same applies to commercial presentations – a properly delivered vocal message increases the credibility of the speaker and the product they present. This point is especially important in promoting complex technical solutions that abound in the IT sector. Let’s say you talked about the most advanced cybersecurity system. A trained listener (there are usually few of them) already understands the issue and does not really go into the details of the speech. The primary audience rarely has an excellent idea of what it is dealing with, hoping to figure it out later, and even then, on the condition that the product proves interesting. In such a situation, the only effective way to attract the attention of potential customers is to emotionally color your speech.
It is not what was said that matters, but how you said it
Andrew Newberg MD, of Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital in Philadelphia, notes in his study that the reaction of untrained people to an unfamiliar phrase (as an example, he took a quote from a medical encyclopedia) varies significantly depending on how it was pronounced. Not understanding the meaning of what was said, the respondents subconsciously focused on other factors that had nothing to do with the semantic content of the message.
In terms of importance, they were ranked:
- Eye contact
- Facial expression
- Vocal tone
- Gestures and non-verbal body signals
- Speaker’s mood (relaxed or tense)
- Rate of speech
- Laconic speech
- Content of what was said
As you can see, visual images come to the fore, and the meaning of the words themselves is not of the greatest importance. Only a voice can achieve a high level of potential success, even if there is no way to organize visualization.
Researchers at the University of Amsterdam found that expressions of anger, contempt, disgust, fear, sadness, and surprise are better conveyed by voice than facial expressions. But the face more accurately conveys expressions of joy, pride and embarrassment. In a business environment, voice can be more than just a sign of leadership, but also a factor in creating greater confidence in the person, product or company that they represent.
The pace of speech is just as important – you should never speak too quickly. For example, at the University of Houston (USA), a corresponding experiment was carried out, which showed that when doctors reduced their speech rate when telling patients bad news, they perceived such information much less painfully, and treated the doctors themselves with more confidence.
The emotional component of the voice also plays an important role. When a person is angry, agitated, or scared, the pitch and strength of their voice, as well as the speed of speech, increase. For the audience, this subconsciously becomes an alarming signal, and anxiety reduces trust in the speaker and negatively affects the impression of the presentations. But soft and “warm” speech improves perception.
How important is the presentation of information and how much does it surpass, in its influence, the information in the message? These questions were answered by the work of a research team that analyzed TED talks. The authors tried to figure out why performances on a very similar, in fact, identical topic, shown at about the same time, attract completely different sized audiences. For example, under similar initial conditions, one presentation received 600 thousand views, and the other – over 21 million, although their content was not radically different (nor was the prominence of the speakers). Without going into details, let’s say that the primary factor was how the speaker delivered their presentation, as well as how charismatic and how emotionally charged the speech turned out to be. The effect persisted even for an audience that did not understand the language of the messages.
Making presentations is a complex, creative process. The effectiveness of these presentations (how your idea or product will be perceived by the audience) depends on a combination of several factors. The speaker’s voice – timbre, strength, intonation, emotional component, speech rate, etc. plays an essential role here. It is not always possible to achieve the optimal vocal setting, and the audience subconsciously perceives the slightest uncertainty in speech as a factor that reduces confidence. It is best not only to practice reading the presentation, achieving the correct intonations and semantic accents, but also to write your best attempt as a training performance, which can then be replicated online or offline. Fortunately, for this there is already a suitable solution.
Аuthor: Igor Kirillov for ROI4CIO