Public Speaking: Low Volume = You Lose

January 12th, 2009 by Frank Damelio

dreamstime_1082642In a previous post, I suggested that if you wish to assess a speaker’s effectiveness just look at the audience.  In particular where are they looking?

Recently, I attended to a Rotary Club meeting as a guest speaker.  Afterwards, one of the officers was talking up a charity event and various ways members could help.  His volume was very low.  He had a great message, but when I looked around the room, most people weren’t looking at him.  I suspect that a majority of them were probably not listening.  Of course, this very likely hindered the resulting volunteerism for the cause.

It is a mistake for us to assume that because people belong to our organization and because our cause is good, they will GIVE us their attention.  The truth is the only thing they will give us is POLITENESS.  In most cases, we can and should count on that.  However, even if we are on their team, speaking for our shared causes, we must EARN their attention.

While there are many ways to earn attention, there is one brilliant way to kill it.  Here is the simple formula: Low volume = You lose.  Does that seem harsh?  Observe for yourself.  The next time you can hardly hear the speaker look around the room.  After a few minutes of straining, most people simply give up and listen to their own thoughts about something else.  Those who NEED to hear the message will continue to strain, but they will be silently annoyed at the speaker.

I understand that sometimes people are self-conscious when they speak, but if they truly understood that their soft volume was boring or annoying their audience, I think many would choose to speak up.

Granted, speakers sometimes argue . . . “I don’t want to be TOO loud”.  That’s fair.  But keep in mind, in my experience only about 2% of speakers are too loud, compared to about 40% who speak too softly.

Finally, lowering your volume to make a special point can be very effective, because the change in volume will attract attention.  Just avoid staying there too long.

What do you think?  Have you noticed the same challenge with most speakers?  We encourage you to share.  Also, feel free to post any question about public speaking.

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2 Responses to “Public Speaking: Low Volume = You Lose”

  1. Bella Says:

    I have experienced this first hand. I work very closely with a woman who’s job isn’t presenting, however – has to do presentations frequently on what her job is and offers. I have attended 95% of these presentations and without fail she always speaks too low and soft. I know she gets extremely nervous and her voice starts to shake, and then it’s just a downward spiral. She hears herself shaking, so she speaks lower, which causes her voice to shake even more, making her more nervous and so on. I have noticed that the audience completely loses interest and I can’t say I blame them. Unfortunately – it ends up being a waste of time for everyone, because the audience 9 times out of 10 has to inquire at a later date about the very things she was covering in her presentation.

  2. Frank Damelio Says:

    Bella, thank you for sharing your observation. Your colleague would benefit in an additional way by speaking up: A loud voice will veil those nervous shakes. Unfortunately the more softly she speaks, the more relatively prevalent the shakiness becomes.

    In your last sentence you sum it up beautifully. When a speaker doesn’t command proper delivery skills . . . “it ends up being a waste of time for everyone”.

    As always, much obliged for your input!

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