I swear I have learnt more about persuasion and influence raising teen boys than anything else I have read or done!

When #2 son was in his early teens, he developed a sarcastic tone to his voice. It’s hard to explain in written form, but imagine Bart Simson saying “Yeah, right…” and you get the idea. Whenever I tried to explain how he was coming across he would say “That’s just how I sound” in a similar (dismissive and patronising) tone. 

And then something interesting happened…

We were at the beach with my mother and her toy poodle BJ, who had wandered off to say hello to some people. My son ran after him and one of the women said, “What a gorgeous dog, is he yours?” and Samuel replied “No, he belongs to my grandma.”

As he was walking back, he overheard one of the people say “Geez, what’s wrong with that kid!”

Samuel was quite upset, and I explained to him how the tone of his voice was changing the meaning of his words.

How we say what we say matters.

Read this phrase to yourself:

‘I did not say he hit my car’

Now read it emphasising the word written in bold:

I did not say he hit my car

I did not say he hit my car

I did not say he hit my car

I did not say he hit my car

I did not say he hit my car

I did not say he hit my car

I did not say he hit my car

I did not say he hit my car

The phrase can be interpreted eight different ways depending on how it is said, and which word is emphasised. The words we use are important but equally so is the way we deliver those words.

Here are the four elements of your voice that you need to examine 

  1. Volume

Can you be easily heard? The audience does not want to strain to hear you, equally NOBODY LIKES TO BE YELLED AT! The goal is to project and amplify your voice so you can be comfortably heard by everybody without straining your voice.

  1. Pace

Pace is the rate of speech we speak at. Most of us speed up when we are nervous This can make us stumble over words and is difficult to listen to. Pace can also be used to great effect and can create drama in your presentation. Martin Luther King demonstrates this in his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech. 

  1. Pitch 

Is your voice high or low? A monotonous pitch can be dull and boring. You can increase interest and engagement in your presentation by varying the pitch. Listen to newsreaders and see how they vary their pitch for emphasis. 

  1. Tone

Now, back to my son. His volume, pitch and pace were acceptable, but his tone came over as sarcastic. Tone enables us to emphasise individual words for greater impact, it helps us to weave emotion into our presentation. 

Consider this phrase

“Hey, that’s a great jacket you are wearing”

This can be said in a humorous, respectful, formal, assertive, demeaning, encouraging or sarcastic tone.


Want to know the best part? Most problems can be fixed by including stories in your presentation. We become animated when we tell stories, they encourage us to use vocal variety for emphasis and engagement.

 And if you or your team need help, well GIVE ME A CALL! (Ahem, apologies for shouting. 😊)

Sharon Ferrier
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All Good Presentations Start With a Confident Speaker

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