We often hear about “dynamic speaking,” but what does that mean?
The dictionary defines “dynamics” as “the forces or properties which stimulate growth, development, or change within a system or process.”
Dynamic Speaking: Volume
Too many speakers use the assertive FM radio announcer voice all the time. Though the style is bold, if it never varies, the performance becomes monodynamic. The bold speaker often can't figure out why their audience's focus keeps drifting off. Being loud is not the same as being dynamic. Dynamics capture our attention while speech that stays the same becomes difficult to keep our attention on.
Vary Your Pitch
Pitch is the range of your voice from low to high. Speakers learn to use their resonant “chest voice” while avoiding the higher and weaker “head voice,” but while it makes sense to be resonant most of the time, our vocal pitch tends to rise when we get excited or scared. Also, when we speak in the voices of the characters in our stories (more on that soon), we might elect to use a deeper voice to represent a bully or father figure or guide. Conversely, we might use a higher voice to play a child or (if we're male) a female character. Varying pitch offers an excellent way to convey emotion and speak in a way that gives life to our characters.
Keep Changing Your Tempo
Another characteristic of the monodynamic speaker is that they hardly vary their speaking rate throughout their presentation. In real life, we speed up when we get excited or angry. And when other people get excited or angry, we can learn to speak slowly to keep matters from escalating. By adjusting our speaking rate consciously and practicing tempo changes when rehearsing, we gain opportunities to convey more authentic emotion and keep our audience's eyes and ears on us.
Change Your Emotional Intensity
Emotional Intensity gets its own slider on the “Dynamic Speaqualizer” because even though we can convey emotions using volume, speed, and pitch, those are technical adjustments. We are not on the platform to deliver a string of memorized words. To speak authentically, we must feel and share the emotions that come with our struggles, fears, and successes. As we write and rehearse, we must be cognizant of what emotions we are attempting to inspire our audience to feel. “Speak loud, fast, and high” is a technical direction. “Convey excitement” is an emotional direction that helps us focus on the transformation we intend to bring to our audience.
Dynamic Speaking: Kinetics
“Kinetics” is motion—how you use your body, your hands, your face, and the stage to enhance your presentation. Are you moving from your right to your left (the audience's left to right) as you discuss the journey from failure to success. Are you stepping forward to narrate and then stepping back into your story to tell it as if it were happening in that moment? What are you doing with your face and hands during that long pause? The conscious decisions you make about you we move about on the platform can have a tremendous impact on your audience.
There are times to whisper, times to speak, and times to sing out. Power is different than volume in that you can sing softly or even whisper emphatically. How much “music” are you producing with your voice? Many speakers talk but rarely whisper or sing. Why not use the full musical range of your voice? A few lines of singing can pleasantly surprise your listeners. A whisper can offer wonderful contrast to a loud and assertive phrase or question.
Too many speakers fumble when it comes to dialogue. They tell a he-said-she-said story in past tense instead of playing the characters in present tense. If your story has multiple characters in it, think about what each one sounds like. Change your voice and even your accent to bring each character to life.
Watch “One Rotten Apple,” the short speech that got Errol Leandre to the final round (top 8 of 30,000 contestants) of the World Championship of Public Speaking. Notice how the sliders on the “Speaqualizer” move constantly throughout the performance.
Dynamic speaking is neither difficult nor complicated but few speakers ever master more than one or two of the “sliders.” The next time you prepare a presentation, search for ways to keep the dynamics changing and evolving throughout your performance. Your audience will thank you, and after all, isn't that what “dynamics' actually means?