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Lower the Volume for Emphasis

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I’m something of a political junkie, someone who enjoys watching politicians speak. And, among their speeches I find leadership convention speeches among the most interesting. As the commentators and pundits so relentlessly tell us, leadership races can be won or lost on the content and delivery of those speeches.

Let’s talk about delivery, and one technique that good speakers use. Of course it’s used not only by politicians, but by anyone who wants to deliver a persuasive message in a speech or presentation.

Lower the volume! Many speakers do just the opposite, of course. They increase the volume to try to make a point.

But, the people who study speaking tell us to lower the volume. Consider what happens when you do that.

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First, you force members of the audience to listen more closely. If you speak at one level, then drop the volume quickly, we in the audience focus more intently than we did a moment before. We have to; otherwise we wouldn’t hear what you say.

Second, when you lower the volume, the audience also takes in more of your facial expressions and body language. To compensate for the lost volume, we in the audience look for other cues that will tell us what you’re saying.

Third, when you lower your voice, you’ll likely slow down as well. That, too, triggers audience awareness that something has changed and we need to be more alert than we were.

Try it for yourself, even in simple one-on-one conversations: Lower your volume and see what kind of effect it has on the other person. I expect you’ll be more likely to get and keep attention.

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