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    The Volume of Your Presentation

    Updated on: Jun 21st, 2012
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    A collage of laptops, clocks, calendars, and charts in Depict Data Studio's purple, blue, green, and fuchsia color palette.

    I’m getting excited for the American Evaluation Association’s Potent Presentations Initiative because it will offer training on messaging, design, and delivery to help evaluators transform into rockstar presenters. Although many of us are beginners at delivering presentations, others are veterans or experts. Today I’ve invited one of my favorite expert-level presenters, Isaac Castillo, to share some of his presentation tips with us. Isaac is also a great resource about performance management and youth development, and you can follow him on Twitter here: @isaac_outcomes.



    Head shot of Isaac Castillo.

    Isaac Castillo

    “One of the most difficult things for many presenters to master is volume control of their voice.   In most situations, we are used to talking in a normal conversational tone and volume.  But normal volume usually doesn’t work for a presentation – and it certainly doesn’t work if you are presenting without a microphone.   On the other hand, you don’t want to be screaming at your audience, particularly in a small space.

    So how do you know if your volume is correct?  Here are some tips to keep in mind.

    If at all possible, get to your presentation space early and ask someone to help check your volume.  This could be a friend or colleague, the person responsible for audio/visual needs, or even that eager person that shows up first.  Keep in mind that what sounds loud enough at the beginning of your presentation in an empty room will NOT be loud enough when dozens (or hundreds) of people fill the room.

    But sometimes you won’t have the chance to check your volume in a room before you start.  In these cases, here are some things you can do to make sure everyone can hear you.

    First, you can simply ask your audience if you are loud enough.  There is nothing wrong with this, and really is one of the best ways to check your volume.  The key is to make sure you get feedback from the back of the room – those in the front row will always be able to hear you, you want to make sure the same is true for those in the last row.

    Second, you should look for signs that members of the audience are having difficulty hearing you.  Looks of confusion, people leaning forward, and tilted heads are all good signs that you are not being loud enough.  And again, pay attention to those in the back row.

    Tips for Beginners:   Talk slightly louder than you think you should be talking.  If you feel like you are talking in a normal voice, you are not loud enough.  You should really feel like you are talking slightly louder than necessary – that will be your correct volume for a filled room.

    Tips for Veterans:  Work out your diaphragm!  Your diaphragm is where you get your vocal volume.   Do this exercise to increase your capacity to talk louder:  lie on your back and place a book (nothing too heavy) on your stomach directly below your ribcage.   Take a deep breath in and lift the book by inflating your diaphragm.  Breathe out and let the book fall with your stomach.  Practice this for five minutes a day – increasing the weight of the books.  You should eventually be able to lift two telephone books with no effort.

    Tips for Experts:   Use different volume levels during your presentation.   Telling stories or communicating content at different volume levels can add a different level of emphasis to your presentation.  I like to use a softer voice when talking about difficult work or when telling emotional stories.  Louder voices are good for exciting moments.  Varying your volume intentionally within your presentation can help make a good presentation great.”

    –Isaac Castillo

    More about Isaac Castillo
    Isaac has over 20 years of evaluation, outcome measurement, and strategic planning experience. He has worked with over 300 nonprofits, foundations, governments, and philanthropic organizations to improve their capacity to accurately measure the effectiveness of human services programming.


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