Tag 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 www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_


3 Areas Most Presenters Forget To Prepare and Why You Should Make Them a Priority

Mel Sherwood Pitch at Palace

Photo: Douglas Robertson

Regardless of whether you worry like crazy when asked to do a presentation or see it as a great opportunity to share your knowledge or passion, you will probably have a certain way of preparing what you’re going to say.

And whilst what you say is fundamental, how you say it is equally, if not more important. In order to bring your words to life and ensure they have the most impact, you need to prime the elements that communicate the words – your body, your voice and your mind.

Recently I ran a warm up session for Pitch@Palace On Tour which was designed to prepare 24 companies who were pitching for a place to participate in a bootcamp in London in October and attend Pitch@Palace 4.0 at St James’s Palace on 2 November. The aim of the session was for all of the pitchers and invited audience to have some fun (laughter is a great way to help people relax) and learn some tips on how to enhance their pitch delivery.

So, drawing on my background as a performer, here are some of the tips I shared during the session about how to prepare your body, voice and mind for a successful pitch:


Our bodies communicate a large part of our message; however, you may have noticed that when some people present they seem disconnected from their body, they simply become a talking head. If we use our bodies effectively we can enhance the way we communicate by helping our audience to take in our message through their eyes as well as their ears.

Preparing your body with a short warm up before you speak can help you to be fully present and able to smoothly incorporate movements and gestures. As we tend to carry a lot of tension, simple stretches, shoulder rolls, arm swings and shaking your arms and legs can be very helpful in easing some of the tension and getting the blood circulating which will energise your performance. Deep slow breathing will help oxygenate your body and ensure you are calm and centred.


Our voice carries our carefully crafted words and is therefore a fundamental part of our communication. Whether we like it or not, people make judgements about us based on our voice such as where we’re from, how well educated we are and how confident we are. When we’re nervous, we tense up and tend to speak in a higher pitch which sounds less authoritative. We might also speak more quickly, forgetting to pause to allow our audience to hear and process what we are saying. We can sometimes get tongue tied, tripping over our words or we might mumble or speak in a monotone, once again impacting negatively on the message we want to share.

But a few simple voice exercises can help your voice to be richer, freer and more expressive. Start by making some weird faces to wake up your mouth and jaw – by this I mean open your mouth wide and then close it tightly, make a chewing motion as if you are chewing a huge piece of gum, blow up your cheeks with air, mouth the word ‘WOW’, poke your tongue out and then move it around the inside of your mouth. Follow this with some gentle humming or singing and add some tongue twisters to get your articulators working effectively for clear diction.


The attitude we bring to a presentation and the state of mind we choose will determine how well our talk is received. If you think about how nervous you are and about everything that will go wrong, then you can pretty much expect you will be nervous and things with go wrong! On the flip side, if you perceive the audience as your friends (most people want you to do well) and focus on delivering value to them (rather than focusing on yourself), you will have a more successful presentation.

Apart from being well prepared and practiced, techniques such as visualising your successful presentation and becoming aware of your self-talk ensuring you are giving yourself positive affirmations can be very helpful in preparing your mind. In addition, rather than thinking about addressing an entire audience, think of your presentation as a series of one to one conversations that you have with individual audience members. Just before your presentation, spend a moment being quiet and still, breathe deeply and focus on serving your audience in the best way you can.

Spending time preparing your body, voice and mind before a pitch or presentation will ensure you are in peak condition to support your words with an engaging and impactful delivery.

What do you think? Do you have any rituals or specific methods of preparing for your presentation delivery? If so, 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 www.grow-your-potential.com or follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

5 Ways to Energise Your Presentation

Image - energy in presentations

If you think about speakers who really connect and truly engage an audience, there’s a good chance it will be those who bring an authentic energy, enthusiasm and excitement to their presentations. These qualities are infectious and they enable speakers to bring their audience on a journey with them. But how do you inject energy into your presentation? Here are five ways to infuse your talk with a liveliness that will have your audience captivated:

  1. Passion
    The most important factor in boosting the energy of your speech is to be passionate about your topic. In some situations, you may not have the choice to speak about something you’re passionate about; however, if you want to be a great public speaker, you need to find an angle or a way to be enthusiastic about the topic. Because if you don’t love what you’re speaking about, how can you expect your audience to? Passion is infectious; you can read more about it in my blog post The Power of Passion in Public Speaking.
  2. Gestures
    Many of us naturally ‘talk with our hands’ but often when we get in front of an audience we start to feel uncomfortable and either become rigid trying to keep our hands still, or we make all manner of distracting movements due to nerves. But natural gestures are the key to enhancing your delivery, as long as they are purposeful. Ensure your gestures are open to the audience which will help to engage them. The larger your gestures are, the more confident you appear and the easier it is for you to communicate your message to the entire audience, including those people at the back of the room. This is particularly important if it is a large venue.
  3. Movement
    Your energy will be more challenging to communicate with the audience if you are stuck behind a lectern so, where possible, ensure you are able to use any available stage area in front of and beside the lectern so that there is no barrier between you and the audience. As you move around the stage (purposeful movements rather than wandering), take slightly larger steps than you would normally and move quickly (once again, move purposely and not erratically).
  4. Voice
    The energy in your voice has a significant impact on your presentation; think about how dull and boring a presenter is if they speak in a monotone. There are several ways you can use your voice to add energy. Firstly, increasing the volume and projecting your voice will ensure you sound more confident and in control. Secondly, whilst nerves sometimes make us speak more quickly than usual, so does excitement (think about when you’re eagerly sharing a story with your friends) and as long as your diction is clear, increasing the pace of your speech will definitely add a natural energy (just be sure to include pauses to give your audience an opportunity to process what you’re saying!) Finally, varying the pitch, pace, tone and rhythm with help your voice, and your message, to sound more powerful and dynamic.
  5. ‘Inner Oomph’
    It is difficult to define your ‘inner oomph’ but I think of it as the fire in your belly; the adrenaline that kicks in when you’re excited. Use this adrenaline and channel it into your speech. Breathe deeply to control it and then allow it to drive your presentation. Smile and let your personality shine!

What are your thoughts? What other ways do you bring energy to your presentations? Feel free to post your ideas in the comments section.

If you enjoyed this article, please leave your feedback and don’t forget to share it with your friends and colleagues.

And if you’d like some further hints and tips on improving your pitching, presenting and public speaking, follow me on Twitter @Grow_Potential or go to http://www.grow-your-potential.com

7 Lessons Public Speakers Can Learn From Pantomime Actors

Stage Door

I have just seen my very first proper British pantomime (‘Sleeping Beauty’ if you’re wondering). Growing up in Australia, I didn’t have the opportunity to see a traditional full-blown pantomime the way they’re produced in the UK but I had a fairly good idea of what to expect and I wasn’t disappointed. The outlandish story, costumes and performances as well as the silly humour and audience participation ensured a fun afternoon’s entertainment. And despite it being a completely different form of communication to public speaking, as speakers we can learn a lot of lessons from pantomime.

Lesson Number 1 – Know your audience and tailor your material accordingly

A pantomime uses the classic storytelling structure with an attention grabbing opening and a story encompassing good versus evil, a conflict and a ‘happily-ever-after’ ending. The pantomime audience expects family entertainment so the shows include a mix of music, vaudeville, slapstick, contemporary references and humorous innuendos as well as a good dose of audience participation. When crafting a presentation it is crucial to understand who your audience is and what frame of mind they will be in to ensure that your content is relevant and interesting to them.

(Download your FREE ‘Know Your Audience’ Guide here)

Lesson Number 2 – Use your body effectively to engage your audience

Good pantomime actors bring an energy to their performance that truly engages and connects with their audience. From the moment they step on stage they use large gestures and open body language to invite the audience into their world. Unlike some forms of theatre where a ‘fourth wall’ exists between the actors and the audience, in pantomime the actors speak directly to the audience making eye contact with as many individuals as possible. Sometimes speakers feel awkward using large gestures; however, most times what feels like over-exaggeration looks quite normal when standing on a stage giving a presentation. And making eye contact with your audience when speaking is essential to really connect with them.

Lesson Number 3 – Commit to delivering your message

Pantomime actors commit fully to their characters and their task to entertain the audience. If they didn’t, the dodgy jokes would fall flat, the songs would bomb and the audience would not be interested in sitting through the show. The whole purpose of pantomime is to provide family entertainment. Think about the objective of your presentation and commit fully to communicating that in the most effective way.

Lesson Number 4 – Ensure you are heard

There is no point preparing an entertaining show or a moving speech if no one can hear or understand you. Just as pantomime actors train their voices and warm up before a show, so should presenters. Learn to breathe effectively so that you can project well, exercise your voice to extend the range so that you can express with greater vocal variety and practice tongue twisters and other exercises to improve your diction.

Lesson Number 5 – Involve the audience

One of the wonderful parts of pantomime is the opportunity for the audience to interact with the actors. Throughout the show performers will ask the audience questions (to which the crowd usually enthusiastically respond), as well as getting them to clap along or even on their feet dancing. Whilst the dancing might be a little too much for most of the audiences you present to, getting people involved by asking questions, even rhetorical questions, will help to ensure they are engaging with your speech material.

Lesson Number 6 – Think on your feet

When presenting or performing things don’t always go to plan and with audience interaction there are bound to be some interesting moments and unexpected comments. Therefore, it is crucial to be able to think quickly and adapt to accommodate any unforeseen circumstances or incorporate them into your presentation.

Lesson Number 7 – Work the room

Rather than focus on a few people or a specific part of the room, pantomime actors involve everyone in the audience to ensure that everybody is engaged and entertained. As a presenter it can give you confidence if you only engage with familiar faces or those that look friendly and interested; however, it is important to connect with everyone in the audience, or if it is a larger audience, certainly ensure that you speak to all areas of the room to ensure that you have their attention. And if all else fails, the old tradition of throwing some sweets into the audience might just get their attention!

Incorporate these seven lessons when preparing and delivering your next speech and you’ll engage and entertain your audience with the finesse of a great pantomime actor. And if you’d like to find out more about how you can grow your potential through improved public speaking skills, go to www.grow-your-potential.com for details about our coaching and courses.