Make sure you strike the right tone 

Jan 11, 2022

Is your tone tripping you up? The question springs to mind because of a quote I was just reading - a quote that should be pinned over the desks of all who make presentations or give speeches.

'We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us.'

That quote is not from any presentation skills coach. It comes from a long-dead German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. And it is so relevant to all communicators.

Tone is the gift-wrap around your words. Tone opens the door to acceptance of your message. Usually the tone is interpreted much more quickly than the words  are processed. Former New York City mayor Ed Koch once said ‘tone can be as important as text.’

It’s important your tone matches your content. Smile if the story is happy. You’d be surprised how many people deliver wonderful news with the tone of the voice of doom. 

Sometimes people are so nervous when they speak, they see only the words on the script and not the feelings behind them. To make your words come alive and be believable, you need to hit the appropriate tone.

So look at your presentation for ‘tone traps’ - areas where you go from one extreme tone to another. Have a plan for making the transition between emotions.

Sometimes, as presenters, we focus exclusively on the words. We don’t always pay enough attention to the tone with which we deliver those words. But as Nietzsche said, sometimes we reject an idea, just because we found the tone unsympathetic.

Nowhere is Nietzsche's warning more relevant than in our new world of virtual meetings. 

A monotone, or a hectoring voice, or just low energy can sink your message - even before your words have launched it.