Ends of Utterances

The most important thing when delivering a talk is to make sure that our listeners understand our story. In an earlier post, I said:

“Giving a talk is not simply a chance to unload a bunch of information. Giving an excellent talk is about connecting with your audience and sharing new knowledge that is meaningful to you and hopefully interesting and even inspiring to them . . . Specifically, we must take care of things like volume; the clarity of everything we say, even the ends of utterances; . . .”

What do I mean when I refer to the clarity of the ends of utterances? When we are delivering a formal talk, we often begin our sentence or phrase with a louder volume and slower speed than the way we finish, so that the end is not as audible as the beginning. Sometimes this happens because we are thinking about what we are going to say next. Sometimes we are looking down at our notes. Sometimes we are walking toward our computer to press the key to advance a slide. Sometimes it is just a habit.

Whatever your reasons for speaking more softly and more slowly at the ends of utterances, work hard to change this pattern. Ask a friend to give you feedback on this important aspect of your communication so that you can make concrete adjustments where needed. The idea is to give each word its full volume and timing, without rushing through and fading out toward the finish.

We want to be the masters of a delivery style where every single word we say is loud enough and paced just right so that everyone in our audience can hear and understand everything we say. Isn’t the point of our presentation to offer our audience some ideas of value and inspiration? If they can’t follow our reasoning because they can’t hear the ends of our thoughts, then we have missed a special opportunity to share our knowledge and advance our ideas.