Category Archives: voice

7 Vocal Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Presentation


What does your voice say about you? Whether you like it or not, people will make judgements about you based on your voice. They’ll make assumptions about where you’re from, how well educated you are or how confident you are.

Regardless of the words you speak, your voice will impact on how engaging a speech or presentation is for your audience and how well your message is received.  Here are 7 vocal mistakes than can ruin your presentation:


When my workshop participants discuss what makes a poor presentation, inevitably someone will mention how awful it is to listen to a presenter speaking in a monotone. It’s boring and tiring to listen to and it gives the impression that you’re not interested in what you are saying or that you don’t care about your audience.

Too Fast

When you speak too quickly it’s very difficult for your audience to keep up with what you’re saying. We often speed up our speech when we’re nervous or want to get a presentation over and done with but this doesn’t serve your audience. It will most likely be the first time they have heard your message and they need time to process the information you are providing.

Too Slow

Whilst it is important to slow down your speech when giving a presentation, speaking too slowly can be frustrating for your audience and sometimes make you sound uncertain about what you’re saying.

Too Soft

As a communicator, it is your responsibility to ensure your listeners can hear what you’re saying. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to hear someone who is not projecting their voice appropriately. It can make a presenter seem like they don’t care and also make you sound nervous and uncertain about what you’re speaking about.

Too Loud

People who speak slightly louder than normal are often perceived to be more powerful and confident; however, if you speak too loudly it can sometimes sound far too aggressive. It’s uncomfortable for people to listen to and you lose the nuances that help communicate your message.

Upward Inflection

An upward inflection at the end of a sentence will make what you’re saying sound like a question which can make you seem uncertain and undermine your credibility. Compare a downward inflection on “Hi, I’m Mel Sherwood” with an upward inflection on “Hi, I’m Mel Sherwood?” As an Australian I am very conscious of this common vocal trait!

Trailing Off

Whether it’s through nerves, habit or simply running out of air, many presenters start off a sentence with the right amount of projection and trail off as they end the sentence. Often this is repetitive which creates an undesirable rhythm and pattern that’s hard to break and difficult to listen to.

Are you making any of these mistakes? One of the best ways to find out, apart from asking someone, is to record yourself delivering your presentation and listen back to it (if you record it on video, make sure you listen back to the audio without the visual).

If you find you are making these mistakes, you’ll obviously need to add in some vocal variety to keep your audience engaged – varying the pace, the rhythm, the emphasis and the volume will help to bring your speech to life. You can do this consciously; however, the best place to start is to really connect with your material and fully express how you feel about it – keep it conversational and allow your passion and enthusiasm for sharing your message to give your voice the extra energy and variety required.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_


The Show Must Go On: 7 Tips on How to Give a Presentation When it’s the Last Thing You Feel Like Doing!

Professional Speaking Association

For many people, the thought of delivering a presentation makes them feel sick with nerves. But what if you’ve been booked to speak at an event and you are feeling unwell?

I was brought up with a strong work ethic and wouldn’t dream of not going to work unless I was in hospital or dead! I’ve also had many roles in theatre shows where I had no understudy so there was no option but to perform, or I would be letting down both my fellow cast members and the paying public. As the saying goes, “The show must go on.”

However, last weekend during the Professional Speaking Association Annual MEGA Conference, I was starting to worry that the show would not go on, or at least my 45 minute session wouldn’t. The conference ran from Friday until Sunday; my session was on Sunday morning and I started to feel unwell on Friday evening. By Saturday lunchtime I felt like I had been hit by a truck; my body ached, I was overcome with exhaustion and my mind was so jumbled that I could barely string two words together. I was concerned but determined not to let anyone down so on Sunday morning, despite not feeling 100%, I put on my happy face and delivered the session I had been booked to deliver.

I learnt some important lessons as a result – here is a quick overview of what worked for me and what I will do differently in the future:

1. No one needs to know

Regardless of the fact that I was feeling increasingly unwell (and the pressure of speaking in front of 200 professional speakers when I wasn’t in top form), I knew that I would do my best to deliver my session as promised. Therefore, I decided not to let people know that I was struggling with my health and kept it from the organisers – they had enough to worry about already, especially as it turned out that two other speakers had to cancel on Sunday! I’m so glad I was able to fulfil my obligations and I hadn’t worried anyone unnecessarily.

2. Cancel all non-essential commitments

I had been really looking forward to the convention, the speakers, the learning, the networking, the gala dinner and seeing the fabulous Celia Delaney providing the after dinner entertainment. But it wasn’t about my wishes; I knew I had to do whatever it took for me to show up on Sunday morning and give my all to the audience. So I stayed in my hotel room and focused on getting well.

3. Give yourself the time to rest

Our mind and body cannot continue to deliver what we need it to if we don’t give it enough time to rest and recuperate. I had a lot of work on in the lead up to the conference and had been burning the candle at both ends. Eventually I just had to stop and give it some rest or I would not have been capable physically or mentally to deliver a 45 minute presentation to the standard that I and the audience expected. A good night’s sleep definitely contributed to feeling a bit better by Sunday morning. In hindsight, I realise I should have managed my diary better in the lead up to the conference and ensured I had enough rest time.

4. Treat yourself well

Not only do we need enough rest but we also need to fuel our bodies with healthy foods to perform at our optimum. As I had been so busy I hadn’t been food shopping so wasn’t eating well enough to give my body the nutrition it required to function at its best. I had even run out of vitamins! Once again, a reminder to myself to make my health a priority and to balance work with looking after myself.

5. Warm up effectively to give your best

My talk was titled ‘Prime Your Body, Voice and Mind: Off Stage Secrets for On Stage Success’; ironic when I hadn’t prepared effectively in terms of looking after my health! However, the focus of my session was about warming up immediately prior to giving a presentation to ensure you are in a state of readiness and fully present when you step onto the speaking platform. Therefore, I took my own advice and did a thorough warm up of my body, voice and mind. This really helped to lift my energy and enabled me to focus fully on the audience and the task at hand. If you don’t currently warm up before a giving presentation, I strongly urge you to do so and notice the difference.

6. Get over yourself and get on with it

My partner laughs when I use the phrase “get over yourself”, but that’s exactly what you have to do sometimes to get on with it. After an obligatory moment of feeling sorry for myself, rather than dwelling on how poorly I felt it was important to focus on being positive and on doing whatever it took to ensure I was able to meet the expectations of the audience and the organisers.

7. Smile!

Smiling releases endorphins that make you feel happier. Smiling is also contagious so it makes people around you feel good. Smiling, even when you don’t feel like it, is one of the best ways to feel better. I’m known for my smile so I shared it freely with the audience and by the end of my 45 minute session I felt much better. The feedback from the audience indicated that they felt good too!

Was I completely happy with my performance at the conference? No… (If I’m honest, I’m never completely happy and am always looking for ways to improve!) However, given the way I felt the day before, I was really pleased that I managed to find my sparkle and lift my energy enough to deliver the session to the best of my ability. And even better, the audience were none the wiser – they got what they needed and that’s all that matters!

Have you ever had to perform at your best when you’re feeling at your worst? What tips do you have to ensure the show goes on? I’d love to hear them; please do share in the comments section.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood works with ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals who want to speak with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s inspiring talks and programmes go to or follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential