The Voice

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This story has been everywhere the last couple of days.  Using the standard measure of our era– YouTube hits– it’s huge.  Susan Boyle or Lady Gaga huge.  But it’s worth revisiting because it gives us examples of two ideas that are important to any presentation.

Ted Williams is the homeless man who made the jump from YouTube to all of the news outlets because of his “perfect” radio voice.  Apparently he’s been collecting job offers to do voiceovers and from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The first thing this illustrates is how important something that many presenters never think about– voice– can be.  There’s more to the Ted Williams story than just his voice (more about that in a second), but he never would have attracted all this attention without it.  A strong voice can perform exactly the same function in a presentation.  Even though most of us will never sound like a radio announcer, we can try to do our best to make our voices enhance rather than detract from our messages.

One of the most important things you can do is speak conversationally to your audiences, which is proven to make them pay attention better and remember more of what you have to say.  Other things you can do:  vary the tone of your voice; sound enthusiastic; pause every now and then to give your audience a chance to process what you’ve been saying.

What you don’t want to do:  read from a script;  drone on in a monotonous tone of voice; sound like you don’t care about your own presentation; use an inappropriate tone for your audience.  We’ve already talked about the pitfalls accents can provide for public speakers– it’s important that you keep that in mind, too.

The other thing that’s clear from all of the attention that Williams has been getting is how much people love a good story.  Clearly it’s not all about his voice, which never attracted the same sort of attention and high profile opportunities before he fell on hard times.  I saw him open The Today Show this morning!

His story has grabbed peoples’ attention because they love these kind of comeback, triumph over adversity, up-by-the-bootstraps kinds of stories.  And it certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s so surprising to hear that voice coming out of his body– people love to be surprised.  It’s the same thing that people thought when they first saw Susan Boyle.  “How could that person sound like that?”

Let’s hope that voiceovers work out for Williams.  Even if they don’t, I can imagine him out on the motivational speaker circuit, telling the amazing story of how he became famous.

As a presenter, you need to try to make every connection you can with your audiences.  Don’t forget to tell them your story.

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