Monday, April 1, 2013

Beating the Monotone Blues

I think we can all agree that the monotone speaker is one of the toughest things to listen to in the world. They drone on and on. And even if their subject matter is interesting, their delivery sucks all the life out of the subject--and the room.

I once coached just such a speaker. He was the nicest guy in the world. He was smart, charitable, likable...and boring as hell when he spoke publicly. He was calm--calmer than most--confident and poised and yet he could put an audience to sleep in just a few minutes.

Anyway, he had enlisted my services as a consultant at the request of a third party, whom I'm sure recognized his shortcomings but didn't have the heart to tell him. I quickly diagnosed the problem and was struggling with how to overcome it when he gave me the answer. That's right HE gave me the answer. I had asked him about his experience speaking at scholarly conferences and he was telling me of one to which he had taken his family. Suddenly, when describing all the activities he and his wife and kids had participated in, he came alive! His voice suddenly danced up and down the pitch scale like Tina Turner on crack. His vocal variety was beautiful, he was conversational, and best of all it was completely natural. This was not the result of vocal exercises or drills. It was just him, telling a story.

And it was in that moment that I realized something that had always escaped me. When we tell stories, they not only work because they're interesting, understandable, and memorable, but they work because when we tell a story our voice comes to life.

The next session I had with my client, I told him " I want you to tell stories". He was puzzled by this at first but I gave him a few examples of how he could do it in some of his recent speeches I had seen. We then worked on his next speech where he was supposed to report the results of a building inspection (yeah, exciting stuff, I know). I had him tell me the story of the inspection. Who was there? (Characters) When/where was it? (Setting) What happened, in detail? (Plot) What problems did you find? (Conflict) What did you decide had to be done? (Climax) When and how will that work be done? (Resolution). We basically crafted the inspection into a STORY about the inspection. And when he delivered it to an audience, he spoke with all the vocal dynamics he did when he spoke of that family trip...he was great.

This has become a mainstay of my coaching technique. Tell the story. Not only do you get all the advantages of the story I wrote about in my last blog entry, but your voice comes to life as well. It is pretty hard to be a monotone storyteller.

So if you have a monotone speaker in your life, send him to me! Or save a few bucks and have them tell stories. You'll see a dramatic difference.

That's all for today...gotta get to work. Until next time, be well and speak well. And, as always, thanks for reading!

For more information about Dan Leyes and his consulting services visit Semiosphere Consulting.