Vocal Variations

Delivery of a message is a complex issue.  While this shouldn’t create tensions in us that distract from working hard on content (Bible study, pastoral awareness, prayer, message shaping, etc.), we do need to give some thought to how we deliver a sermon.  Delivery consists of three elements – the verbal (words used), the visual (body language) and the vocal (use of the voice).  Let’s just review some basics for three days . . . not new information, but perhaps a timely reminder to work on one or two details of delivery…

Vocal variation through pitch. We each have an upper limit and a lower limit to the range of notes we can hit with our voice.  Some of us (well, me), can’t “hit” any note in particular, but we all have a range of possibilities!  By default we will usually fall into a limited range of pitch.  It takes effort to break out of that range and add variation to the voice.  Naturally, when excited, our pitch will rise.  It takes effort to learn to sometimes drop the pitch for the sake of emphasis.  This is worth doing to avoid screeching your way through an exciting sermon like a shrill dog whistle!

Vocal variation through pace. All of us can speak faster and slower.  Most listeners can cope with both faster and slower (as long as volume is appropriate).  However, listeners will struggle with monotonous pace.  It’s hard to listen to a 100mph preacher.  It’s hard to listen to a 1mph preacher.  Be sure to vary the pace . . . which takes effort to learn.  Just like with pitch, we have a default when excited – we go faster.  Problem is, with an exciting Bible message we can end up sprinting for half an hour and leaving everyone breathlessly in our wake.  Emphasis can be achieved by slowing the pace at the key moment, but it takes effort to learn this.

Vocal variation through power / punch. You can speak louder and softer.  We tend to fall into a certain level, it takes effort to add variation.  Again, for emphasis we naturally go louder.  But going softer can really be effective too, with some practice.  Here’s a post that addresses this specific issue –When Less is More.

Vocal variation through pause. Basic truths – speakers feel that any pause is really, really long, and they think that listeners think they’ve forgotten what they’ll say next.  In reality a pause is never perceived to be as long as it feels to the speaker.  In reality if you don’t look nervous, they won’t feel nervous.  Pauses really help.  They add emphasis.  They allow seconds for soaking in a truth.  They allow people (including you) to breathe.  So don’t undermine every possible pause with a verbal filler, you know, umm, like, just really, you know, like, that.

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