The other week I turned thirty seven years old and it hit me that I have been in ministry for almost two decades in various capacities. As I was reflecting back on this, I realized how much my speaking style and ability has changed and grown over the years. Much of this growth came through trial and error, learning from mistakes, continued education, and learning from mentors.
It is extremely humbling that I am where I am as a pastor and speaker, because I should never have been able to do any of this. I was born with a severe speech impediment and tongue tie. Fun fact, I still have a bit of tongue tie today because they couldn’t fully remove it. For years after the surgery I was in speech therapy, and even today will have moments when I mispronounce words. I was also extremely terrified to speak in front of people. In high school I would shake during presentations, I would have extreme cotton mouth, and would try to find any way out of having to stand in front of the class.
But by God’s grace, He called me into ministry and has allowed me to grow and develop into a person who speaks and teaches regularly. I am by no means a world class speaker or teacher, but I have studied and grown in my own abilities and wanted to share my insights and tips with you. Many of these have been learned through failure and growth opportunities. I hope this series encourages you and provides some tips that will save you from learning the hard way like I did.
For today’s post, I want to share ways that you can leverage your voice as you teach and shepherd your people. Your voice is one of your greatest resources and tools, and when you master it, you can use it with great results.
One of the best things you can do with your voice is to control the volume at which you speak. When you transition from a normal speaking volume to a whisper, it brings people in. When you move to a more dramatic and louder voice it communicates heightened intensity or emphasizes a point. It is important to note that when you get loud it isn’t yelling but speaking loudly. If you can balance speaking loudly versus yelling it will help engender you to your students because they don’t see you as authoritative but instead as someone who can lovingly guide and direct.
Inflection is a great gift.
Inflection is defined as “a change in the pitch or tone of a person’s voice.” This is more than just volume but changing the way you actually communicate verbally. Think about the best vocal storyteller you know. What made them special? It was probably the way they told the story and typically that all has to do with inflection. Inflection can be switching up the speed of what you say, enunciating certain words or syllables, speaking for dramatic affect, utilizing your voice to communicate different meanings in a sentence or phrase, and even speaking in various voices like monotone or emphatically. Utilizing this skill not only will make you a better teacher and story teller but will also cultivate a desire to listen within your students.
Pace is key.
Some people are naturally fast talkers, while others tend to be slower. Neither is a bad thing unless it keeps your audience from paying attention and listening. What you need to find is a pace that is comfortable for you, relatable to your audience, and effective in communicating your message. Pace isn’t just about speed but knowing when to change your speed, when to embrace the technique of pausing, and knowing what pace is most effective with your audience. Throughout a message you may have varying paces but walking through a practice run of your message will help to fine tune what pace you need at what time during your message.
Speak from the diaphragm.
One of the best pieces of advice I received about speaking came in college. A prof was speaking about using our voices and talked about how utilizing our diaphragm allows us to control our volume, tone, projection, and longevity of breath. When you breathe deeper and speak from the diaphragm it affords you more control and ability to use your voice in multiple capacities. To know if you’re speaking from the diaphragm you will feel your breaths being deeper, your projection growing without yelling, and the ability to control your speed increase. This is more than a deep breath, it is allowing your whole body to help you speak and you will feel it within your stomach, lungs, and vocal chords.
Practice and watch.
Practice, practice, practice. The more you practice the better at controlling and leveraging your voice you will become. In fact, one of the best ways to grow as you practice is to actually record yourself and watch and listen to how you use your voice. I know that even suggesting watching yourself speak can be uncomfortable. I get it. I hate watching myself speak because I am always my toughest critic. But when I watch myself it challenges me to think about areas in which I can grow. It isn’t about critique but about finding ways to grow.