Spellbinding Speaking – Tips for Vocal Pacing, Pausing and Pitch

Spellbinding Speaking – Tips for Vocal Pacing, Pausing and Pitch

Award winning Toastmasters speaker, Evelyn Lee, shared with us some of the tips for vocal pacing, pausing, and pitch in the Women L.E.A.D. featured workshop on May 5, 2021. Here’s a recording and PDF handout if you missed it: 

She talked about vocal variations in forms of pauses, pace, and pitch.  

Vocal Variety | Pauses – a rest, hesitation, or temporary stop in your voice 

She recommends pause:

  • after a question, 
  • after each item in a bulleted list, 
  • before a pun or punchline and after for laughs 

Each pause lasts 2-3 seconds to add dramatic effect. 

Vocal Variety | Pace – speed of your voice 

Slow down

  • To emphasize a point, 
  • To add drama and inspire imaginations, 
  • To add mystery or a joke, 
  • And stretch words for emphasis and emotion. 

During this section, Evelyn also gave specific examples about how men and women often stretch out the words differently, use slow vs. fast pace differently 

Don’t forget speeding up can be effective as well. Speed up your words before slowing for an important point to add emphasis. 

Vocal Variety | Pitch – rise and fall of the voice

No variation bores the audience.  

What can go wrong with a bad pitch? 

  • Upspeak – when speaking, a statement sounds like a question 
  • Sounding “like” teenagery – include “like” unnecessarily 
  • Vocal fry – way of speaking in which the voice is very low-pitched and has a characteristic rough or creaking sound.

When to use pitch? 

  • Use a dropping pitch to be serious. 
  • Use a rising pitch for questions 

When using pitch effectively, it can help bring out different personalities, age group, excitement level etc. 

Break out sessions 

I particularly enjoyed the break-out sessions that Evelyn hosted. 

In the first one, we were asked to play with pace. We were asked to use pace for the following two situations in a group of four. 

  1. (30 seconds) Have someone describe, scratching off a lottery ticket, and WINNING $1 million dollars. 
  2. (30 seconds) Have someone else describe how they thought they had a $1 million winning lottery ticket, but they checked again… and they LOST. 

I particularly enjoyed how we used fast pace to show excitement and slow pace to show disappointment. 

The second exercise was to use our voices to create personalities. The scenario is from our breakout room, pick two people to play opposite parts. Examples: 

  • Very old vs. young 
  • Bored vs. excited
  • Giant vs small
  • Intense athlete vs. lazy couch potato 

Helen, a member of Women L.E.A.D. Toastmasters, and I played bored vs. excited. She shared with me how bored she was cleaning the garden on the weekend with a very low and slow pace, whereas I used very fast and high pitch to show my excitement about everything Helen said. The contrast really showed the different personalities and added depth to the story and interactions between people. 

Upcoming workshops

Hope you enjoyed this quick summary of our vocal variety workshop. We host monthly featured pop-up workshops on Wednesdays and supplemental workshops upon members’ request on Fridays. This is a great opportunity to hone in on special skill-set development in public speaking or leadership. All workshop recaps can be found here and upcoming workshops here

Written by Renee Yao, President of Women L.E.A.D. Toastmasters

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