The Importance of Vocal Variety

September 2, 2021

When I was in college, I took a speech class. I had some experience on the radio in my hometown, but I wanted to be more comfortable speaking in front of an audience.

Also, a pretty girl I liked was taking the class.

When it was time for me to stand up and deliver my first speech, I thought I was ready. Thirty some years later, I can’t even remember what my speech was about, but I’ve never forgotten what the professor told me when I was finished.

“You spoke in a monotone voice, and you sometimes emphasize words that don’t matter.”


Today, I’m part of the Wixted & Company training team, preparing our clients for that important media interview or crucial presentation. And guess what? Many of them speak in a monotone voice, and they sometimes emphasize words that don’t matter!

It’s all part of having good vocal variety. Here’s what I mean: We all speak within a certain bandwidth, much like a car driving down the freeway. The key is to vocally change lanes now and then, speak louder, speak softer. And don’t forget to work in one of the most effective presentation tools we’ve talked about before – pausing.

Who’s good at vocal variety?  Your favorite football broadcasters. They don’t describe every play like it’s a game-winning touchdown. If they did, their listeners would be exhausted. Instead, they mix it up. And you should too.

Our trainers are not suggesting you become something you’re not. We’re simply encouraging YOU to be YOU, but more amplified.  

So, the next time you find yourself in front of an audience or speaking to a member of the media, take a deep breath, and remember to use good vocal variety.

Oh, and the pretty girl in my college speech class? We’ve been happily married now for 33 years! 


By: Jeff Johnson

Jeff is a former television anchor and reporter for CBS and ABC affiliates in the Midwest.  In those roles, Jeff has covered state and national events, including the World Series and the NCAA Basketball Tournament.  He has interviewed former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, football great Walter Payton, and baseball legend Bob Feller. Jeff has produced and directed for the Kansas City Royals, Iowa State University, and the PGA Tour.  Jeff earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State University, and he minored in Psychology.