Image credit: dedmazay / 123RF Stock Photo

Ever heard of the saying ‘It’s not what you say it’s how you say it?’ Well that’s the aim of Toastmasters Project 6 – Vocal Variety. The previous projects were about communicating coherent ideas, simply, and to the point. But Project No 6 is about taking it up a notch and really being aware of how you use your voice to communicate.

The interesting thing is that we innately know how to use our voices to convey excitement, joy, surprise love or sadness as these are all key abilities in story telling and we tell stories all the time. But as soon as we put it down into a speech something strange happens:

Some voices become loud and squawkish, some people barely go above a whisper and often voices (often unknowingly) are just plain boring.

Andrew Dlugan, the editor and founder of Six Minutes gives some great tips to improve your use of the 4 P’s.

Tips and Techniques

1. Plan Around the 4 P’s: Pace, Pitch, Power, and Pauses

Be conscious of all four major vocal variables, and work all of them into your speech.

Pace — One of the easiest ways to incorporate variable pace is to slow down through key statements.
Pitch — A convenient way to hit different pitch points is to play with different emotional content. A sad voice takes on a different pitch than a content voice, which is distinct from an excited voice, and so on. Stories are good speech building blocks for many reasons, including how they bring a speaker’s voice alive through different emotions.
Power (Volume) — Don’t overdo it with changes in volume. Again, align your variations in volume with emotional content. Anger or joy tends to bring out a loud voice. Fear or sadness calls for a quiet voice.
Pauses — There are a multitude of ways to incorporate pauses in a meaningful way (watch for a future Six Minutes article dedicated to pauses). For this speech, keep it straightforward. Make sure you’ve got short pauses following every sentence, and longer pauses at the ends of paragraphs or transitions within your speech.This is a speech I knew I could do well, I knew I could project my voice with power, I knew I could add interesting pacing but I felt like I needed to put more effort into pausation and pitch.


What I did

According to Six Minutes, the best thing you can do for Project 6 Vocal Variety is NOT write a speech about vocal variety. The objective for this speech project is not to educate your audience about vocal variety. Your objective is to incorporate vocal variety to enhance your delivery.

The great news is that the choices for suitable speech topics is infinite!

So what did I do?

I decided to do what I do best – I decided to recall a personal story and try to tell it in a entertaining way, one that utilities my voice in a variety of ways. And what story would really capture the aims of using vocal variety? I wrote a speech about the first time I asked a girl out on a date!

This topic was fantastic as it begged for me to use my voice in a wonderful variety of ways:

The teenage years are ripe for story telling, as there are big emotions of fear, love, anxiety, passion and excitement. All of these lend them to being useful crutches to hang a speech on.
A solemn beginning links a big moment in time (D-Day) to a big moment is a young mans life (a personal D-Day of sorts)

Re-telling a special time in my life, with it’s excitement, nervousness and importance allowed me to relive it in front of my audience and bring those moments to life with my passion and leave with a lesson learnt.

Listen to my Toastmasters Speech 6: ‘D-Day’


I received a glowing evaluation that pretty much let me know I fulfilled the aims of the speech.

One recommendation was that I slow down in parts and make my pauses more pronounced. I found the recommendation really helpful as I have to remind myself that when I get excited (and there were passages in the speech where I needed to be) is that I still have to make sure I articulate my words, and not mumble them. What I can do in the future is warm up my tongue, mouth and jaw before hand. Also with my pauses I should count to 3 inside my head to make my pauses even more pronounced.

Outcome: Best Speaker Award on the night.

I was really proud of this speech, it was carefully written speech designed to tell an entertaining story but also fulfill the aims of the speech. Unlike previous speeches I actually took quite a lot of time to practice and rehearse the speech. I probably rehearsed the speech almost a dozen times and I took valuable feedback from my family before hand. However my weakest point was the last half of my speech only because I didn’t practice it enough. AND even though in my practice I practiced my speech to only be 6mins long in reality it was almost 7 mins 30 secs!

I must remember to account for interactions with the audience and talking slower because I’m remembering passages…

D-Day Transcript | Toastmasters Speech 6 – Vocal Variety


It’s recess time at John Forrest Senior High, a thousand young bodies spill out of their classes flooding the hallways with noise and chatter but I can’t hear a thing… because today…. is D-Day

I’m 15 years old, a brown face in a sea of white Australians and my main claim to fame was my ability to cram 2 weeks of study into a recess break because I had forgotten that I had a test until that day. But today… all of that would change… because today was… D Day.

D-Day. The day a young man asks his first girl out… on a date.

Do you remember your first D Day? How old were you? Who was she? Who was he?

Historically men have been the ones expected to make the first move, to somehow bypass years of Ewww Girl germs and hair-pulling to one day come to the realisation that girls were inherently mysterious, magical and beautiful. That life wasn’t complete until you found just one to share your heart with…

So my mission if I chose to accept it, was to ask Kate Turner out on a date.

Kate was in my year. She had green eyes that twinkled when she laughed, sandy gold hair that bounced as she walked and she could wear a school top like no other. I had a such a crush on her that whenever I tried talking to her I literally talked like a zombie.

Errr…awwwright…ahhh… She thought it was hilarious. I thought different.

But there was one small problem, another guy.

You see for the past two weeks she had been cluing me in on a mystery crush she had, which killed me hearing about this guy but I reasoned this would give me valuable insider info on the competition, and I needed ALL the help I could get.

So according to Kate this guy was

  • smart
  • really cute
  • made her laugh
  • and totally clueless.

So I thought to myself, I’ve got a chance! Not a great chance but it was better than nothing!

Okay, I knew I wasn’t really smart, or really cute either, or funny when I come to think of it. But I could definitely beat clueless! Not a week went by that one of my teachers or my mum wouldn’t say ‘Sam, you’re totally Clueless! You just don’t get it!’ And I didn’t argue the point. I knew I didn’t get it. Heck, I didn’t know what it was but I knew i didn’t get it.

But regardless, by Wednesday at the end of second session Operation Date Kate was in full swing. Intel suggested that at 11.10 would be at her locker talking to her best friend Bec, talking about their favourite subject The Backstreet Boys!

So I had 10 mins to navigate a potential minefield from my class, across the school grounds, to her locker on the second floor where I would pop THE question.

As I made my way to Kate’s locker I heard a voice in my head, quietly at first it said…

Hey, I don’t think we can do this…

Are you really gonna do this, what if she says no?

She’s gonna laugh, what if she’s talking to mystery guy??

And the closer I got, the louder the voice got until by the time I was around the corner from Kate the voice was more like

What are you doing??

You’re crazy!

For goodness sake Stop!!

And I stopped. Completely dead.

And I let this whole mental war go on in my head. It was bad enough my heart was already pounding, my palms were sweating profusely. I felt like I was going through a monstrous transformation but instead of becoming the green Hulk I was becoming the green slime.

But haven’t we all felt like that? Perhaps it was that insanely cute girl, or a new business venture, or perhaps asked to sing Karaoke or the moment you’re called to speak at Table Topics. This ongoing war between:

You can do it!


You can’t do this!


You can Succeed!


You gonna fail!!

So what do you do when you’re hearts pounding, your palms are sweaty and you’re just ten metres away from the girl out…

Well, you do what the pros do…

You take a deep breath

You take a few seconds to compose yourself, head up shoulders back.

You realise your reason, you’re why. My why was that Kate Turner was insanely cute, I had a big crush on her and I didn’t want some mystery guy to have her heart first.

And then you take the first step.

And then the next, even though with each step that negative voice is screaming at you to stop and turn around, and you may be scared out of your mind…

You do it, regardless.

If you want to write but you’re scared to. write anyways.

If you want to sing, but you’re scared about what people think. Sing anyways.

If you want to ask that girl out you say:

Hi Kate I mean, Hi kate… blah blah… hey would you like to go see a movie with me sometime.

And no matter what she says to you, my friends, you have already won your hardest battle of your D-Day. The battle with yourself. Does that mean that you never have to fight again? No. Does that mean you won’t lose the battle occasionally. Yeah of course you will. But you can still win the war. You just can’t give up. And if you never give up, you will ultimately win.

And just as a side note in this tale. One week after Kate said Yes, and I had my first kiss I asked her

‘So are you finally gonna tell me who that mystery guy was, you can tell me I won’t mind.’

Katie just laughed and said

Sam! You are totally clueless. You just don’t get it!’