#16 How to speak so that people want to listen | Julian Treasure
January 5, 2021
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In his ten minute Ted Talk, sound expert Julian Treasure piled up quite a mountain of useful tips to help public speakers be heard. How can we speak powerfully so that people will want to listen? Treasure gives us seven habits to avoid, seven principles to abide, a pentad of technical tips, and a final word of advice. In case you don’t have time to watch the video, here is a quick summary. 


Seven Habits to Avoid

Treasure identifies seven habits to avoid. All of these tend to repel listeners and make them tune out. Gossip, judging, negativity, complaining, excuses/blaming, exaggeration/lying, and dogmatism. Plan your speech and screen it for any hint of those unattractive attributes and drop the parts that are going to make people recoil. 


Four Principles to Embrace

Julian also offers a list of four principles to treasure that spell out the word “hail”. Honesty, authenticity, integrity, and love. Be straight and clear in your communication. Be your authentic self and “stand in your own truth.” Act with integrity; do what you say you will do. And act with love – not romantic love, but rather sincere concern for the well-being of others. 


Five Technical Tips for Public Speakers

The talk covers several technical aspects of public speaking, register, timbre, prosody, pace and volume. Register refers to the pitch of your voice. Lower-pitched voices are often heard as more authoritative. Timbre is tone quality or character – the difference in sound between a buzzing reed instrument like an oboe and the simple sound wave emanating from a tuning fork. Listeners prefer a rich smooth timbre. If your voice is innately nasal or raspy, you can train with a vocal coach to sound more like a radio announcer. 

Prosody is the melody that helps us understand the meaning of a sentence, distinguishing between a statement and a question: “He’s here” or “he’s here?” Avoid a monotone and engage your listeners with prosody. Pace is another important factor to consider. If you are too slow, people will get bored but if you are too fast they will think what you are saying is not important. Pace can give emphasis and create contrast. You can also create contrast and enhance attention by changing volume. Our first thought may be that louder volume gets attention, but speaking quietly can also get people to “listen up.”


Practice First, Then Perform

If you have an important speaking event, make sure to review these tips first, then practice your speech. Try some vocal warm up exercises so they will be familiar and then do them right before your speech. Treasure demonstrates a sequence in the video at 7:39. He offers a final tip – if you can, pick a venue with good acoustics to give your speech.