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More Ideas for Using Drama!

So you’ve been convinced that drama can make your public speaking come to life and touch the lives of many. Now you’re wondering, “Well, how can I do it?” Today we’d like to share several different approaches to incorporating the dramatic arts into your speaking!

Monologue

In the realm of communication, the word “monologue” may carry a negative connotation of a long, boring speech or a speaker who monopolizes a conversation. However, a monologue is a dramatic expression used by a public speaker. The dictionary defines a monologue as “a dramatic soliloquy (oral discourse); a continuous series of jokes or comic stories delivered by one comedian.”[1] Talk show hosts on television often begin the program with a monologue.

Everett Robertson writes, “The dramatic monologue involves one actor portraying one character in a crisis situation.”[2] Monologues may present biblical characters, such as Ruth or Mary the Mother of Jesus, or portray an inanimate object, like the manger which held baby Jesus or the alabaster jar which held the perfume used to anoint the feet of Jesus. Monologues may be short or long, presented during a portion of the message or as the entire speech. Speakers may wear costumes and makeup for dramatic effect. The script may be written originally or taken directly from the Scripture or another text. Monologues are most effective when they reveal a truth to the audience in dramatic details.

Dramatic Reading

Dramatic reading is defined as “a public reading or recitation of a work of literature with an interpretive use of the voice and often of gestures.”[3] A speaker reads aloud a poem, essay, story, or Scripture passage with animated voice, facial expression, hand gestures, and body movements. The reader portrays the dramatic, physical, and emotional aspects of a situation. If several characters or perspectives are included, the speaker may identify them with changes of voice, posture, or gesture.

Material for dramatic reading must be selected carefully. The content must have a clear focus and appropriate emotional appeal. The audience needs to identify with, understand, and enjoy the work. Delivery requires practice and timing. Careful pronunciation and phrasing as well as a rhythmical pace enhance the presentation. Facial expression, eye contact, and gestures add to the oral expression.

Storytelling

One of the oldest forms of drama, storytelling is “reciting tales or relating anecdotes in a captivating manner.”[4] While a monologue involves a character directly, storytelling includes the character indirectly. Storytelling is typically spoken in second-person, and monologue is first-person. Vivid description and animated expression is a part of storytelling. A real account is often exaggerated and amplified for effect in storytelling. Robertson encourages the storyteller to “use every possible technique to communicate the story creatively.”[5]

Object Lesson

For years, teachers and speakers have displayed inanimate objects to explain a lesson with dramatic effect. Visual aids are helpful to most listeners. They enhance a narrative, facilitating comprehension and identity. In delivery, the speaker should carefully connect the object and the idea. Creative interaction with the audience and object may foster application.

Role Play

Role play is a form of drama used successfully in many areas of ministry as well as public speaking. It is “representing in action the thoughts and feelings of another person”[6] During a message, a speaker may pause in her own discourse to assume the position of another person in order to emphasize or clarify a point. In teaching or training, role play may be used to demonstrate different responses or simulate varied emotions. Role playing is a creative and revealing way to present a range of emotions, values, and beliefs without threatening the audience.

Pantomime

One of the most creative forms of drama is pantomime, the process of silent expression. It is “conveying a story by bodily action or facial movements only.”[7] The term “mime” may refer to the performer, though it usually refers to the more formal, classical discipline. Marcel Marceau was the famous French mime who introduced the art form into the world stage. Dick Van Dyke premiered pantomime on one of his earliest television shows as humorous, physical comedy. Pantomime communicates visually what cannot be communicated as creatively with words.

Pantomime may be used by speakers as a means of visually expressing specific actions and traits. According to Robertson, “it involves a universal language of gestures which is understood by all cultures and ages.”[8] It can be serious or humorous and is often performed to music. Costumes and makeup may be worn. The audience often relates personally to the movements and emotions of the mime.

Clowning

Clowns are known for entertaining in circuses and rodeos, but they can also be found ministering in churches and communities. By definition, clowning is “entertainment by jokes, antics, or tricks in a public presentation.”[9] Christian clowning communicates biblical truths in a creative, non-threatening form, often in evangelistic outreach. “A Christian dressed as a clown breaks through many of the barriers placed by the secular world against religion. The joyful nature of the clown also makes it easy to tell others about the joy and colorfulness of Christ.[10]

Do you have any other ideas for incorporating drama into your public speaking?

[1] “Monologue,” http://www.thefreedictionary.com/monologue (cited 13 March 2013), American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).

[2] Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry, 12.

[3] “Dramatic Reading,”www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dramatic reading (cited 13 March 2013), Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2013).

[4]“Storytelling,” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/storytelling (cited 13 March 2013), Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2013).

[5] Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry, 21.

[6]“Public Speaking,” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/public+speaking (cited 13 March 2013), Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2013).

[7] “Pantomime,” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pantomime (cited 13 March 2013), Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2013).

[8]Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry, 12.

[9] “Clowning,” http://www.thefreedictionary.com/clowning (cited 13 March 2013), American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).

[10] Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry, 15.

Go Ahead. Be Dramatic.

Drama captures the minds, the imaginations,

and the emotions of the audience.[1]

God is theatrical. It has been said, “All of creation is a theater for God’s glory.”[2] Numerous biblical accounts demonstrate that God is powerful and mighty in His actions and purposes. He created everything from nothing: the heavens and the earth, the sky and land, the birds and fish, man and woman. He continues to perform supernatural miracles, signs, and wonders to work in the world and gain attention from His children. His dramatic demonstrations of power are seen today in nature, during hurricanes, earthquakes, and blizzards. God is all–powerful; He is omnipotent in His being and His behavior.

The Old Testament records numerous wonders of God. Moses experienced the dramatic work of God when the angel of the Lord spoke to him from the burning bush that was not consumed. When the Israelites fled Pharaoh’s army, God manifested His power in dramatic fashion by parting the Red Sea, allowing His children to cross safely to the other side. Balaam’s donkey talked. The walls of Jericho fell down. The widow’s son was raised from the dead. Elijah was carried into heaven. The widow’s oil was multiplied. Elisha’s bones were revived from the dead. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were delivered from the fiery furnace. Daniel was protected in the lion’s den. Jonah was saved from the belly of a whale. God demonstrated His mighty power in dramatic miracles in the Old Testament.[3]

The New Testament also contains many accounts of God’s dramatic intervention, often through the ministry of Jesus. Though Jesus refused to give a miraculous sign on command to prove His authority, He performed miraculous signs during His ministry. Jesus changed water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. He healed Peter’s mother-in-law. He calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. He healed the woman with a hemorrhage, and raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. He fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, and He walked on the water. He healed a stooped woman, and He raised Lazarus from the grave. Jesus demonstrated His mighty power in dramatic ways in the New Testament.[4]

God has exhibited His power through wonders and signs, and Jesus performed many miracles in His ministry. These dramatic demonstrations accomplished divine purposes, met human needs, and evidenced the truth of the gospel. As God’s instruments, Christian communicators may use dramatic presentations to convey a biblical message or illustrate a spiritual principle. Consider how you may be able to integrate drama into your public speaking as you continue reading!

Drama is the “compression of human experience into a story we can view on the stage.”[5] The word “drama” actually comes from a Greek word meaning “to do.”[6] It implies action, involving a performer and an audience. Drama is a form of literature and can be prose, verse, or dialogue. It illustrates a message and can be presented from a script, by improvisation, through mime, or spontaneously during a speech. According to Lewis and others in The Complete Guide to Church Play Production: “Drama shoots darts into the hearts of the audience and pulls them out with emotions attached.”[7] When drama is used by Christian speakers, it should be God-glorifying and Christ-centered. The message, not the medium, is the focus of a biblical truth presented dramatically.

Drama is a powerful method of expression. It speaks to the total person—physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual.[8] The body performs the actions of drama. The mind conceives and interprets drama. The emotions express feelings and portray passions. The spirit convicts through the verbal and nonverbal message. Christians can use drama to stimulate and persuade the audience to consider their personal relationship with Christ. Therefore, Christian speakers should be open to drama in certain public presentations.

Oral interpretation is a dramatic art, also called interpretive reading or dramatic reading.[9]  It is the presentation of a literary work with feeling and expression, for the purpose of enlightenment. Oral interpretation and dramatic performance are similar in public speaking though slightly different in academic contexts. Oral interpretation is taught typically in speech communication programs, while drama is taught in the departments of theater arts. Both are appropriate for public speaking.

Oral interpretation began 3,000 years ago with the classical Greek philosophers who used formal oratory to teach and persuade. Eugene and Margaret Bahn wrote a History of Oral Interpretation to document the development from the classical Greek through the ancient Roman, Medieval Period, and Renaissance as well as the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. The oral interpretation of literature has continued into the 21st century, though its nature, practice, and trends have varied.[10] Oral interpretation and dramatic presentation can be effective and essential tools for a public speaker!

            [1] Matt Tullos, Show Me: Drama in Evangelism (Nashville: Convention Press, 1996), 5.

            [2] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. and indexed by Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1967), 1:6:2 (72).

            [3] Ex 3:1-22; Ex 14:15-31; Num 22:22-41; Josh 6:1-21; 1 Kg 17:17-24; 2 Kg 2:1-12; 2 Kg 4:1-7; 2 Kg 13:14-21; Dan 3:8-30; Dan 6:10-18; Jonah 1:1-2:10

            [4] Mark 8:11-12; John 2:1-12; Matt 8:14-15; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:42-48; Matt 9:18-26; Mark 6:30-44; John 6:16-21; Luke 7:11-17; Luke 13:10-17; John 11:38-44.

            [5] Alison Siewart and others, Drama Team Handbook (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 15.

            [6] John Lewis, Laura Andrews, and Flip Kobler, The Complete Guide to Church Play Production (Nashville: Convention Press, 1997), 277.

            [7] Ibid., 277.

            [8] Everett Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry (Nashville: Convention Press, 1989), 7.

            [9] “Oral Interpretation,” http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/oral+interpretation (cited 20 March 2013) American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).

            [10] Eugene and Margaret L. Bahn,  A History of Oral Interpretation (Minneapolis: Burgess, 1970), 174.

Dress Your Best

Public speakers never have a second chance to make a first impression. While a person need not be a beauty to speak to groups, appearance and clothing are an important part of the speaker’s image. Neat appearance and appropriate clothing display professionalism and confidence. On the other hand, untidy appearance and inappropriate clothing can distract the listener and diminish the speaker’s credibility. Christian speakers should always look their best to represent the Lord well.

Florence and Marita Littauer have written and spoken about personality types for many years. They discuss how personality affects style of communication in their book, Communication Plus: How to Speak So People will Listen. Personality is definitely expressed in the clothing, hairstyle, and makeup of a speaker.[1] They suggest four different personalities with four different looks. While no two people are exactly alike, each personality tends to wear clothes of a particular style.

            Popular Sanguine: bright colors, sparkles and bling, flamboyant clothing, unique styles

            Powerful Choleric: bright colors, simple prints, tailored style, business professional

            Perfect Melancholy: muted tones, classic cuts, traditional styles, simple elegance

            Peaceful Phlegmatic: earthy tones, flowing fabrics, relaxed fit, unstructured styles

Personality should be considered when shopping for clothing, accessories, and makeup.

Public speakers need to understand how personality impacts style of speaking and type of clothing. While appearance should reflect personality, clothing styles should not be extreme. The audience and occasion should be considered as well as the fit and comfort of the clothes. Clothing should not be distracting to the speaker or listeners. According to the Littauers: Regardless of your personality, it is important to put extra effort into dressing for the platform. The things that work on the stage may well be things that you would never wear to the store or office. But on the stage, in front of an audience, you want to have a look that sets you apart and lends dignity to your work.[2]

Some people have a natural sense of style and dress attractively without effort. Others must work harder to look their best. General ideas can be seen in fashion magazines. Clothing consultants or sales clerks can provide professional input. Speakers must wear clothing, hairstyles, and makeup appropriate for age, setting, and ministry. Timeless classics are recommended over faddish trends. Invest money in fashions that last and are made well. 

The speaking wardrobe should take into consideration appropriate attire, personal style, body type, and skin tones. Type of attire is determined by the occasion, setting, and audience. A speaker is wise to ask about dress for the event before arriving unprepared. It is a general rule of thumb for a speaker to wear clothing one level above the audience. If the audience wears jeans, the speaker should wear nice slacks. If the audience wears slacks, the speaker should wear a dressy pantsuit, skirt, or dress.

There are four different body types which determine how clothes look on a person. They are called by different names, though they generally describe the same basic shapes. Several fashion sources suggest these four categories: circle (thick around the middle), triangle (larger at the bottom), hourglass (curvy but evenly proportioned), and rectangle (straight up and down). Circle figures should wear loose fitting clothes around the middle and fitted pants; avoid high-rise pants, belts, and fitted tops. Triangle figures should wear tailored tops and fuller bottoms; avoid oversized sweaters, skinny jeans, and clingy skirts. Hourglass figures should wear fitted waistbands and belts; avoid shapeless tunics, baby–doll dresses, and oversized cardigans. Rectangle figures should wear fitted waists and flared bottoms to create curves; avoid clingy dresses, Empire–waist tops, and flowing skirts.[1] Women who know their body types and wear the appropriate clothes always have a more attractive and confident appearance.     

Colors also matter. Solid, bright (not neon) colors are usually flattering on all women. However, certain colors look better with specific skin tones. In 1980, Carole Jackson developed a color system called “Color Me Beautiful.” Based on the four seasons of the year, a woman’s natural skin tones determine the most complimentary color palate. See the chart below listing coloration and colors for each season. [2]

 Clothing makes a statement. Clean, neat clothes project a sense of pride and care. Dirty, disheveled clothes indicate lack of interest or even emotional distress. Stylish, coordinated clothes display attention to detail. From head to toe, clothing matters to women and to public speakers. Clothing need not send the wrong message: “I am worn out and out–of–date.” Clothing can project a positive image. Speakers should wear their best to speak their best. Personal style and event setting may vary. However, a speaker’s appearance should always be neat, modest, and appropriate. Comment below with any additional tips you have about the speaker’s wardrobe!

        

            [1] Littauer, Communication Plus, 174-176.

            [2] Ibid., 176.

    [1] Larson, Kristin. “The Right Clothes for Your Body Type,” http://www.realsimple.com/beauty-fashion/clothing/shopping-guide/right-clothes-your-body-type-00000000007925/index.html (cited March 20, 2013), Real Simple, (Time Inc. 2013).

            [2] Carole Jackson, Color Me Beautiful (New York: Ballentine Books, 1980).

Stand Up Straight & Don’t Pace

Platform movement and posture are essential elements of nonverbal communication. Like gestures, they should look and feel natural to reinforce the message and not distract. The stance and movement of the body involve the total person, mentally and physically. Thoughts and feelings can be expressed in movements and gestures. These two rules should be remembered when on the platform: move when there is reason to move and stand still when there is no reason to move.

One of my (Rhonda) doctoral professors roamed back and forth in front of the classroom without making any eye contact with the students during his lectures. He paced aimlessly in front of the class as he taught. As a project in a behavioral modification course, several students attempted to alter his distracting behavior. Students on the right side of the class paid careful attention to the professor as he paced—looking interested, nodding heads, taking notes, and asking questions. Students on the left side of the classroom ignored the professor as he taught—disinterested yawns, hands on desks, no notes, and no questions. Within a few minutes, the professor only paced back and forth on the right side of the room. While his pacing behavior was modified, his poor eye contact remained unchanged. I learned the impact of the speaker’s body movement and positions by observing a negative model as a student.

Posture is noticed immediately, and opinions are made about a speaker based on stance and carriage. Posture is the position of a person’s body when standing or sitting. Many different organs, muscles, and nerves in the body are used to stand. While physical conditions may inhibit good posture, most people can control posture with conscious actions. A public speaker needs good posture to support vocal projection, to display confidence, and to enhance movement.

In No Sweat Public Speaking, Fred Miller suggests four ways that posture helps communicate a message. (1) Good, straight posture indicates leadership and confidence. (2) Leaning forward toward the audience shows concern and care. (3) Slouching the body conveys disinterest and boredom. (4) Hunched shoulders suggest low self-esteem and lack of confidence. Posture is more important than many speakers realize. Evaluate posture in a mirror or on a videotape. Remember to stand up, then speak up!

There are some cardinal rules about posture and movement that a good speaker should follow. Try not to break the following posture principles:

  1. Do not fidget with your hands or fingers.
  2. Do not jingle change or keys in your pockets.
  3. Do not cross your hands in front of your body (“fig–leaf stance”) or behind your body.
  4. Do not rock on your heels or toes.
  5. Do not sway back and forth.
  6. Do not lean on the podium.
  7. Do not cross your arms across chest.
  8. Do not look down for too long.
  9. Do not bob or shake your head too much.
  10. Do not be stiff or tense.

Zig Ziglar was a dynamic public speaker and powerful Christian communicator. Though small in physical stature, he had a “bigger than life” presence on the stage. He projected energy and enthusiasm as he moved confidently around the stage. His speech content was filled with knowledge and wisdom, and his delivery style was passionate, purposeful, and powerful. His sales experience and personal faith provided the foundational principles for his speaking and writing. A master of verbal and nonverbal communication, Ziglar said it this way: “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” Stand up and speak out like Zig Ziglar did for many years.

Correct posture is an important part of nonverbal communication in public speaking. Practice these principles and avoid these pitfalls.

  1. Walk deliberately to the stage; avoid rushing onto the platform.
  2. Stand upright keeping the body core tight; avoid tension or tightness.
  3. Place feet firmly on the ground and slightly apart (about shoulder width); avoid stiff legs and locked knees.
  4. Face the audience directly; avoid turning the body away.
  5. Position body behind podium with hands to the side or resting on lectern; avoid gripping the podium.
  6. Hold head and chin up; avoid looking down.
  7. Square shoulders with the audience; avoiding drooping shoulders.
  8. Keep chest up and stomach in; avoid tightening abdominal muscles.
  9. Relax the body; avoid tension and stiffness.
  10. Breathe deeply to relax; avoid short, shallow breaths.
  11. Pause to look at the audience; avoid rushing into the speech.
  12. Watch the posture of others speakers; avoid awkward imitation of others.
    Improved posture adds strength and authority to a spoken message.

Dale Carnegie, known as the father of modern public speaking, said: “A person under the influence of his feelings projects the real self, acting naturally and spontaneously. A speaker who is interested will usually be interesting.”

When your name is called and you walk to the stage…
rise up slowly,
stand up erectly,
walk out boldly,
pause—breathe—look—then
speak out confidently.

Good posture makes a good impression on the audience and gives good support to the speaker. Outstanding public speakers develop a platform posture to reflect their attitudes and gain the audience’s attention. Body posture can reduce nervous energy and relieve physical tension. As you speak, make your body talk.

Animate, Don’t Alienate

The eyes and face of a speaker convey mood, emotions, and character. Both interpersonal conversation and public speaking use eye contact and facial expression to amplify meaning and clarify feelings. Lack of eye contact and inconsistent facial expression can actually confuse the intended message. Poor eye contact can lead to suspicion, and limited facial expression can imply lack of interest. Effective communicators must intentionally develop skills to communicate with the eyes and face.

The word “countenance” means the outward expression of a person’s inner being. The inward character of a person is reflected outwardly through the eyes and face. The Bible often uses the word “countenance” to describe the appearance of God and the people of God. God asked Moses to tell Aaron and his sons that He would “lift up His countenance upon them and give them peace” (Num 6:26). Samson’s once-barren mother was told by an angel that she would give birth to a son. She told her husband that she had encountered a man whose “countenance was like an angel of God” (Jdg 13:6). David was described as a youth with a “ruddy, fair countenance” (1 Sam 16:12; 17:42).

The Psalms and Proverbs often contrast the happy or joyful countenance of one who follows God with the sad or sorrowful countenance of one who focuses on self (Psa 43:5; 89:15; 90:8; Prov 16:15; and 25:23). For example, in Proverbs 15:13 (KJV) we read, “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” The prophets encountered God and spoke of His countenance also. Daniel’s countenance changed when his dream was interpreted (Dan 7:28). Some faces of people in the Old Testament had sad countenances while others had happy countenances (Gen 4:5; 1 Sam 1:18; Neh 2:2-3)

The New Testament describes the countenance of Jesus and His followers. During the transfiguration, the countenance of Jesus was “changed as He prayed” (Luke 9:29). After His resurrection, the countenance or appearance of Jesus was like “lightening, bright and white.” In his vision, John saw the risen Lord and His face (countenance) “was shinning like the sun and midday” (Rev 1:16). A radiant countenance is a theme of Scripture and a trait of holiness.

The Bible describes the face or countenance of several women. In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah’s sad countenance became happy when the priest Eli told her she would bear a child (vv. 8-18). Abigail was described as a woman of good intelligence and beautiful countenance (1 Sam 25:3). King David’s son Absalom named his daughter Tamar after his sister who had been tragically raped by her half-brother Amnon. The countenance of Absalom’s daughter, Tamar, was described as fair and beautiful (2 Sam 14:27). Many other women of the Bible and many godly women today reflect the righteous countenance of the Lord.

If a Christian is created in the image of God, then her countenance should resemble His. The eyes and face should reflect the sincere emotions and godly character of those who love Him. This chapter will highlight the role of eye contact and facial expression in nonverbal communication. Speakers must express thoughts and feelings in their eyes and faces as well as through words.

Eye contact serves several purposes in public speaking. Some believe 75 percent of nonverbal communication is through the eyes. The speaker conveys the sincerity of her heart, the intent of the message, and the intensity of her passion through the eyes. Good eye contact improves the speaker’s confidence, demonstrates security, increases credibility with the audience, projects warmth, builds connection, and communicates value. The audience provides visible feedback to the speaker. Smiles and nods may indicate understanding, while curious expressions or confused looks may imply poor comprehension.

A speaker can control her eye contact and connect with the audience more personally. Keep the eyes open and focused. Wide eyes are more visible in a group setting, and focus allows the speaker to see the eyes and faces of the people. Scan the audience with the eyes and face. Turn the head as well as the eyes to look at someone or some area of the room. Establish eye-to-eye gaze when possible. Connect with one person in the audience at a time. However, try not to stare or move mechanically. Look at all areas of the room and all people. Try to cover all the people and all the room with an eye gaze. Try not to overlook the balcony or extreme sides. Engage in eye contact with the most important people in the room even if they make you a little nervous. Use steady, controlled eye contact. Confidence and persuasion are conveyed with individuals and the audience as a whole with deliberate eye contact. Maintain eye contact with each person or section for several seconds. Complete a thought or sentence before gazing at another person or another area of the room. Avoid looking at the ceiling, toward the floor, or above people’s heads. Roving eyes convey anxiety and disinterest. Look up from any notes, and lock eyes on the audience. Glance down to read a sentence or two then glance up to establish eye contact with the people. Move the eyes about the room in a synchronized pattern. Both eyes should move together across the room and focus together on individuals. Look at the audience while walking to the platform and before walking away. Begin and end the speech by connecting with the audience.

For more tips about the eyes and face, see chapter 22 of our book!

The Warmth of the Soul

“Warmth is the soul of the voice.” [1]

In Psalm 149, the psalmist called for God’s people to express praise to Him in words and actions: “Hallelujah! Sing to the Lord a new song…let the exaltation of God be in their mouths.” Exaltation or praise is to be reinforced by a joyful shout. The sound of the voice conveys the emotions and feelings of the heart. A Christian should offer praise to the Lord with her whole self.

Haddon Robinson explained the influence of the voice in his book, Biblical Preaching:

Speech consists of more than words and sentences. The voice conveys ideas and feelings apart from words. We make judgments about a speaker’s physical and emotional state—whether he is frightened, angry, fatigued, sick, happy, confident—based on the tenor of his voice, its loudness, rate, and pitch.[2]

Chapter 21 of our book establishes the importance of nonverbal communication to express emotions and feelings, focusing on three aspects of vocal tone which project meaning: volume, variety, and vibrancy. For the purpose of this blog, we will focus on vibrancy.

Vibrancy refers to the enthusiasm and passion communicated in the tone of a speaker’s voice. An animated and energetic voice adds emotions and feelings to the spoken words. Public speakers should desire vocal vibrancy and lively delivery in speech delivery. Vibrancy in the voice should make the listener want to hear the speech.

Energy is expended physically when speaking. Verbal and nonverbal communication involves energy and effort. Public speakers need to maintain physical as well as mental health to communicate more effectively. Proper nutrition, regular exercise, and adequate rest are essential ingredients of energetic speaking. Fatigue and illness hinders enthusiasm and vibrancy in speaking.

Warmth is an aspect of emotion which can be expressed verbally or nonverbally. Tender feelings can be communicated through choice of words or tone of voice. A softer, lower voice typically conveys warmth. Warmth should be a vocal quality desired by public speakers.

In an etiquette book written in 1942, Margery Wilson suggested that the voice reflects emotions as surely as a mirror reflects an image.[1] Warmth is the “soul” of the voice. Sweetness, generosity, and love of humanity are personal qualities of the inner person that produce warmth in a speaker’s voice. Wilson recommends that people build character and virtues to speak with vocal warmth.

Excitement and eagerness should be experienced and expressed by the speaker. If the speaker does not sound excited about the topic, the audience will not want to listen. When possible, a speaker should select a topic of personal interest. If the assigned topic is less than stimulating, the speaker can express enthusiasm verbally. Vocal vibrancy depends upon energy, warmth, and excitement.

Consider these principles about vocal vibrancy when delivering a speech.

  1. Determine the presence or absence of vibrancy in your voice.
  2. Compare your vocal vibrancy to that of other speakers.
  3. Prepare physically for speaking with proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise.
  4. Work to soften the tone of your voice to convey warmth.
  5. Expand your interest to be enthusiastic about the topics for your speeches.

The voice provides insight into the speaker’s emotions and feelings. The vocal characteristics of volume, variety, and vibrancy combine with words and other nonverbal cues to communicate the meaning of the speaker’s message. A simple sentence such as “I have had a good day” can change meaning drastically when the voice is used differently. Soft volume may raise doubt in the listener; loud volume may cause belief in the statement. Vocal variety may keep the interest of the listener; limited variety may lose attention. Vocal vibrancy may convey passion to listeners; flat, monotonous tone sounds unconvincing. Tone of voice is the nonverbal code for expressing emotions and feelings in public speaking.

The sound of the voice conveys the emotions and feelings of the heart.

[1] Margery Wilson, The Woman You Want to Be: Margery Wilson’s Complete Book of Charm (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1942), 58-59.

[2] Haddon Robinson, Biblical Preaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1980), 202-203.

Step Back and Observe

“Vertical and horizontal listening are necessary for Christian speakers.”[1]

While there is no one perfect speaker in the world, there are many excellent speakers. Much can be learned by listening to and observing a wide range of speakers in a variety of contexts. Insights can be gained from the strengths and weaknesses of public speakers, and ideas can be prayerfully incorporated into one’s own speaking style.

Assessment of the public speaking of others should consider several personal characteristics or traits in addition to skills and abilities. Observe the speaker’s character and integrity; sensitivity and awareness; knowledge and information; and desire and passion. These traits are worthy qualities to emulate.

Awareness and informal observations should become a natural mindset of a speaker. Without pen and paper or objective criteria, make mental notes as others speak. Learn to communicate more effectively through observation and examination as well as practice.

Some general guidelines will provide structure for informal observations. Begin noticing the speaker even before the speech starts. Continue observation during the speech and until the speaker is no longer present. Consider observing these aspects of communication, incorporating them into conscious thought.

Before the speech.Observe the setting and platform before the message begins. Is the platform conducive to comfortable positioning and movement by the speaker? Is the lighting adequate for good visibility? Are the podium and props set up properly? Is the screen visible for slides if used, and will the speaker be able to reference them easily? Will the speaker be positioned physically to connect with audience? While some features of setting and stage are beyond a guest speaker’s control, some adjustments and adaptations can be made to improve the speech.

Notice the speaker’s behavior and mannerisms even before she speaks. How does she interact with people before the session begins? How does she participate in the program as a part of the audience? How does she approach the stage and position herself for speaking? How appropriate is her appearance, clothing, and makeup?

During the speech.While the speaker shares the message, try to focus on the speech content and allow the Lord to communicate His thoughts personally. Also, pay attention to the public speaking skills employed during the delivery. It may be helpful to organize observations within the introduction, body, and conclusion parts of the speech. The speaker and listener should be consciously aware of each distinct part.

Listen carefully to the speaker’s opening comments in the introduction. Did she immediately capture the attention of the audience? Did she begin with a challenging question or interesting illustration? Did she relate to the other people or elements of the program? Did she quickly gain rapport with the audience? Did she stimulate interest in the topic? Did she project energy and enthusiasm? Did she use specific words phrases or movements to bridge from the introduction to the body?

As the body of the speech was delivered, did the speaker transition smoothly from the introduction? Did the speaker present clear relevant points? Did she include appropriate supportive material to strengthen her premises? Did she use nonverbal communication naturally? Did she utilize the sound system and media effectively? Did she adhere to the schedule and allot time equally to all points? Did she move smoothly into the concluding remarks?

Was the conclusion truly the conclusion? Did the speaker pause, alter tone, adjust pace, or move to denote the conclusion? Did she summarize main points or introduce new material? Did she call for response or action? Did she close in a vivid memorable way? Did she verbalize “in conclusion” or “in closing?” Did she have a false conclusion? Did she stop before the audience finished listening?

After the speech. Recall the positives and negatives of the speech as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the speaker. Was the speaker effective? Was she well-prepared and thorough? Was the message relevant to your life? Was the audience responsive? Were the major points memorable? Were personal applications realistic? What were two or three strengths of the speaker? What are one or two weaknesses needing work? What one positive comment would you like to share with the speaker?

Whether a wonderfully delivered or poorly constructed message, much can be learned through stepping back and observing!

            [1] Quentin Schultze, An Essential Guide to Public Speaking. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006),  45-49.