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Set the Tone


Techniques Public speaking > Speaking Tips > Set the Tone

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



When you are speaking, set the 'tone' of the presentation at the beginning, then continue in that vein for the rest of the speech, although you may vary it for particular effect. Examples of tone include: serious, light-hearted, hurried, questioning, academic, coarse, personal, angry and affectionate.

Do this with consistency of language, volume, speed, emphasis and other non-verbal communication. Visual supports such as slides may also be made consistent by the use of similar fonts and colors.


I am presenting an academic paper and decide on a semi-serious tone rather than get too dry. I throw in occasional humorous stories about difficulties in research, though end with a serious description of findings and consequences.


The tone of a speech has a lot to do with how the audience feels when you speak. If you have a serious tone, then they should feel serious. If you tell jokes they should feel amused.

There will always be a tone to a presentation, even if you do not plan it. This will likely reflect your emotions, which, if you are not that happy, can result in a tone which is angry, sad or frustrated. This is how your audience will also likely feel. It is generally not a good idea to instigate negative emotions unless for deliberate effect, such as in political speaking where you may want to mobilize them by using anger.

Without control, the tone may also go all over the place, leaving the audience confused and uncertain.

An overly consistent tone may be tiring and some variation, such as occasional injection of humor can make the speech more engaging. Nevertheless there should be an overarching tone, which is the emotion the audience feels at the end and when they later recall the speech.

See also


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