Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How do you emphasize points when you speak? 9 tools to underscore

Writers have highlighters. Mailers have express delivery. But what do speakers have to emphasize the points they're trying to make? The answer: At least 9 tools to underscore their arguments, data and other key points. Here's how any speaker can add emphasis:
  1. With your head: From a strong nod for yes or a shake of the head to make it clear your answer is "no," to the thoughtful side tilt, your head can speak volumes for you.
  2. With your hands: Research shows that gestures not only help you produce speech fluently, but help your audience to understand your point--even if the gesture isn't specific to the words it accompanies. So go ahead: Point, stretch, glide, zoom and otherwise move those hands to emphasize what you want to say.
  3. With your words: What is rhetoric, after all, but a series of ways to emphasize what you're saying through tactics like repetition, rhyme, alliteration, analogy and more? Make those big points gigantic, or small thoughts focused, with the right words and structure.
  4. With your voice: One of the easiest ways to underscore a word or phrase is with your voice. Use inflection, cadence or a "pop" of emphasis to make particular words stand out from the rest of the pack. Working with a script? Feel free to mark the words you wish to emphasize as a reminder.
  5. With your body: If you don't stay still behind the lectern, your body becomes one of your tools for emphasis. When a professor in the back of the room at one of my workshops asked, "What can I do if I think I'm losing the audience?" I walked toward him as I began to answer. When I reached him, I asked, "What's everyone else in the room doing right now?" He said, "Turning around to watch you." Lesson demonstrated without extra words.
  6. With pauses: A benefit for those who don't rush through their talks is the chance to use pauses to good effect. Try them at the end of a story, or at a turn in the drama you're recounting.
  7. With audience reaction: Nothing like using the human amplifiers in the room to make your point. The old call-and-response tactic ("What do we want?" "Justice!" "When do we want it?" "Now!") lets your audience get engaged...and emphasizing what you want them to remember most.
  8. With humor: A dollop of humor or a clever punchline can surprise the audience and make that point more memorable and emphatic. Just be sure humor is the appropriate way to underscore what you're saying.
  9. With volume: As long as you don't use one volume all the way through your presentation, your loudness or softness can be used to emphasize particular points. Don't underestimate low volume: It forces the audience to lean in and listen.

No comments: