I was recently coaching an engineer who wanted to improve his speaking skills. After videotaping him, we discussed his strong points and then his areas of improvement. Then we got to the area of vocal variety. Vocal variety is the quality of your speech that hold your audience. It is the combination of pitch changes, pauses, inflection, rhythm, and loudness in your voice that adds "color" to any conversation or speech. I suggested he try Dr. Seuss's "The Cat in the Hat." At that point he looked at me like I had a third eye. I then explained how "The Cat in the Hat" could help anyone improve his or her speaking skills, especially vocal variety, and have fun doing it.
Can you remember being read "The Cat in the Hat" by your parents? What held your attention? What made you want to hear "The Cat in the Hat" again and again? "The Cat in the Hat" is set up so that you must use vocal variety to read the story. It's the vocal variety that held your attention.
Here's how Dr. Seuss's "The Cat in the Hat" can help you hold your audience's attention:
1. Buy the Book My favorite Dr. Seuss books for this type
of exercise are "The Cat in the Hat" and "Green Eggs and
Ham." You can go to any used bookstore and get a gently
used copy of the book at a substantial discount. You can
also go to www.half.com and get the book at more than
50% off the price.
2. Read with Passion Read to your children, nephews,
cousins, etc. While reading aloud, exaggerate your pitch,
tone, and pauses. The children will enjoy it as you will
become used to the sound of your voice. Children are the
best barometers to let you know if you are doing it
correctly. The children will have a look on their faces that
show they are hanging on every word you are saying.
Continue to experiment with different ways to read "The
Cat in the Hat" while recording yourself on audiotape. The
more fun you have, the more everyone involved will benefit
from this exercise.
3. Apply It Right Away (That's the Way!) Immediately
apply your newly acquired vocal variety skills in any
speaking situation whether it's in a meeting, with co-
workers, speaking in front of a group, or one-on-one with
another person. It may feel a little strange in the beginning.
However, remember the more you use your new skills, the
more comfortable you will be.
So go out, get a Dr. Seuss book, and improve your vocal variety. You will have more people hanging on every word, you will be more persuasive, and your speaking abilities will be more colorful and entertaining. So do it today (It will pay!).
Ed Sykes is a professional speaker, author, and leading expert in the areas of leadership, motivation, stress management, customer service, and team building. You can e-mail him at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, or call him at (757) 427-7032. Go to his web site, http://www.thesykesgrp.com, and signup for the newsletter, OnPoint, and receive the free ebook, "Empowerment and Stress Secrets for the Busy Professional."