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Creating More Emphasis Vocally
The way in which a leader communicates orally in professional settings carries a lot of meaning.
Tone, pitch, grammar, and vocabulary combine to establish credibility and to project confidence. The elusive quality of executive presence is, in part, a reflection of vocal style and choices.
Minor variations in pitch can have a dramatic effect on how people interpret what is being said, especially on what is important to the speaker. Words spoken with a higher pitch carry more emphasis. At the beginning or middle of a sentence, higher pitch conveys heightened importance and emphasis.
For instance, the sentence, “I was absolutely thrilled to hear the news,” conveys a different level of excitement when the word absolutely is spoken with a higher pitch. To test this, say the sentence out loud with your normal pitch and tone. Now, without screeching or creating too much rise, focus on the word absolutely by using a slightly higher pitch. The word now carries emphasis and conveys a very different level of enthusiasm.
Try this again with the sentence, “We need to get this project done as soon as possible.” Use a rising pitch on the words get this project done. Those on the receiving end of that pitch rise will hear more urgency and focus on the need to complete the project.
This quality is also known as rising-falling intonation because there is always a fall in the pitch immediately following the rise. Don’t confuse this with a continual rise in pitch or pitch that ascends at the end of a sentence. This is known as uptalk and is a speech pattern that conveys a lack of confidence or uncertainty.
Try saying the earlier sentence with rising pitch on the words as soon as possible. This subtle difference changes everything.
In professional settings, uptalk makes every declarative sentence sound like a question, typically undermining the presumed confidence of the speaker.
Where we chose to increase pitch has a definitive impact on how we are heard. Work on creating more emphasis with rising pitch on key words and at the start or middle of sentences. People will remember what is important to you thanks to this vocal difference.