Pitch is how “high” or “low” your voice sounds. It’s the melody of speech and you can think of it as being a note on the musical scale.
Generally speaking, women tend to have higher pitched voices while men tend to have lower pitched voices.
Regardless of how high or low a speaker’s pitch is, when they use the same pitch throughout their entire presentation, we refer to them as being “monotone” (or dreadfully boring).
So why is pitch such an important element of an engaging presentation?
It’s because we use pitch as a tool to convey emotion, emphasis, significance and of course meaning by emphasizing different words in our sentences.
But how much does pitch really impact meaning? We’ll show you.
Take the following sentence for example…….“my brother bought me a house”..... and add emphasis to different words in the same sentence.
My brother bought me a HOUSE (listener: wow, incredible! Houses are expensive. Nice brother!)
My BROTHER bought me a house (listener: sounds like your brother doesn’t normally buy you nice things.)
My brother bought ME a house (listener: you seem really honoured that your brother picked you to buy the house for!)
My brother BOUGHT me a house (listener: oh, sounds like he should have just gone with a rental.)
See what we mean? Pitch can be a handy way to add an element of emotion, drama and persuasion to your content.
But speaker beware! When used incorrectly, it can also detract from your credibility.
“Uptalk” is used to describe the common North American habit of a rising intonation at the end of a sentence, which makes every statement sounds like a question.
This causes the speaker sound uncertain and unsure rather than credible and confident. Watch the transformation of Emilie Clark when she does an “American accent” based on this common habit.
So the next time you present ask yourself:
Did I sound monotone?
How could I have better used my pitch to emphasize my point?
Have I fallen victim to the up-talking habit?
Pro tip: These questions are easier to answer when you video record your presentation. ;)