Monotony should be on the FBI's most wanted list. It has killed more presentations than any of the deadly distractions. Everyone, not just those trained to perform critiques of speeches, picks up on monotony in a presentation.
You don't find any best-selling songs that use only one note, do you? Nor do you find great one-note presentations. However, monotony is not just speaking in a monotone - that is using just that single note. It is a lack of variety in every element of your presentation.
The antithesis of monotony is variety. You can add heat, color, excitement, emotion and expressiveness by bringing variety to your presentations.
First, let's talk about the vocal elements.
You should vary the notes, the sound level, and the flow of your words. Vary between a whisper and a shout. Speak slowly, then more rapidly. Use your voice to work up and down the register. Take advantage of silence, too. Use precise diction to underline a point. Change your voice to fit your content. Paint a picture by emphasizing certain words. Use your voice to be unpredictable. Keep the audience a little off guard and they will stay with you to the end.
Face has its place in fighting monotony. If you are practicing vocal variety, a deadpan face causes dissonance. Your face should match the content of your presentation, as well as the vocal qualities you are employing. Happy? Then, smile! Thoughtful? Show it.
Make eye contact with various audience members. Picking one person to stare at is just wrong. It makes everyone uncomfortable.
Movement and gestures also add variety. Now, we don't want you to pace and wander all over the stage, but it is OK to step out from behind the lectern. Move toward or away from the audience to make a point.
Use your hands to punctuate a point. Make a fist. Sweep the room with your arm to draw in your audience. Point. But with gestures as with everything else make sure they have a point and fit into the context of what you are saying.
Remember monotony kills. Variety can bring even a dead audience back to life.
Ty Boyd, CEO of Ty Boyd Executive Learning Systems, is in the Broadcast Hall of Fame and the Speakers Hall of Fame. He has taught presentation skills to Fortune 1000 executives in more than 40 countries. His Excellence In Speaking Institute celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2005.