TED Talks: ‘How to Speak So That People Want to Listen’

UPDATED: April 11, 2020
PUBLISHED: February 22, 2017
public speaking

There are seven deadly sins of speaking, according to sound consultant Julian Treasure:

It can be difficult to stay away from these conversation killers, but Treasure says there are plenty of ways to make sure you don’t lose your listener. In this TED Talk, he shares tips to speak powerfully—and with a purpose.

Related: 5 Ways to Speak More Powerfully

The first step is to hail, an exercise in using honesty, authenticity, integrity and love to give your words meaning. Treasure says these things allow you to be clear in what you’re saying—to be straightforward in a way that establishes trust.

After you’ve nailed down what to say, you have to think about how to say it. That’s where the human voice comes into play. Treasure says using different vocal inflections and rates of speech can add an extra layer of meaning to your words—and really drive a point home.

“You have an amazing toolbox. This instrument is incredible, and yet this is a toolbox that very few people have ever opened,” Treasure says.

Is your voice giving you the presence you need? Here are some of the best tools in the box:

1. Register

“If you want weight, you need to go down here to the chest…. We vote for politicians with lower voices, it”s true, because we associate depth with power and with authority. That”s register.”

2. Timbre

“It”s the way your voice feels. Again, the research shows that we prefer voices which are rich, smooth, warm, like hot chocolate.”

3. Prosody

“People who speak all on one note are really quite hard to listen to if they don”t have any prosody at all. That”s where the word monotonic comes from, or monotonous, monotone.”

4. Pace and Pitch

“I can get very excited by saying something really quickly, or I can slow right down to emphasize…. Of course, pitch often goes along with pace to indicate arousal.”

5. Volume

“I can get really excited by using volume…. Or, I can have you really pay attention by getting very quiet. Some people broadcast the whole time. Try not to do that.”

Related: 9 Tips to Say It Better

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics—from science to business to global issues—in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world. See more at TED.com.