Study after study demonstrates the importance of cadence and vocal variety for the effective public speaker. In this article, we will look at an amazing way to become a master of cadence.
What is Cadence?
The term cadence dates back to 14th Century middle English and is used to describe an action’s speed, tempo or rhythm.
We have all experienced this as life has rhythm. When we walk, we change speed and pace; music with a great tempo and surprises makes us want to listen; movies change tempo and speed and so does a great speaker as she or he delivers their message.
Dictionary.com has a definition of Cadence that felt right for this lesson.
The flow or rhythm of events, especially the pattern in which something is experienced.
What Does Cadence Mean in Public Speaking or Delivering a Presentation?
When a speaker purposefully changes the tempo or cadence of a talk it is more interesting and easy to listen. By intentionally changing the pace of your talk you can emphasize important moments and draw your audience’s attention. Surely you have heard good and bad speakers. Think about what made the difference.
I remember a professor at USCB who spoke in a monotone, slow moving style. The lecture was one of those 3-hour ones and was deadly to the listener.
How Do I Improve My Use of Cadence?
The problem with improving cadence is feedback. It is very hard to hear your own voice and delivery speed. You need some ways to get useful information. Here are a few ideas:
- Record your talk and listen to it with an open mind. Take notes about sentences and phrases that a change in tempo could help make it more interesting.
- Videotape your talk with your phone or camera. Not only can you hear your presentation, you can see how your body language supports the tempo of your words.
- Join a Toastmasters group and ask for specific feedback from the group regarding areas you want to improve such as cadence and tempo.
- Hire a personal speech coach to provide feedback and skills training.
How Do I Practice Tempo and Cadence?
I’ve found most of us learn through emulation. What does that mean? We gain knowledge by watching and learning from others who have the skills we want to improve. Athletes watch game films and video of great players, so do entertainers and actors.
If you took a look at my bio, you learned I gained a lot of my skills by integrating my work as a professional magician with public speaking. I have often watched magicians and great speakers on YouTube and shows like America’s Got Talent to get ideas.
A powerful training technique is to listen to a great speaker and then copy what they do. The idea is to learn how they pace, pause, speed up or slow down by mimicking them.
The result from emulating great speakers is you’ll start expanding your knowledge and understanding of cadence, rhythm and pacing. You don’t have to invent the wheel, simply ride on one that knows more than you do.
I’ve put links to several YouTube videos from speakers who use effective cadence. Don’t focus on the topic or content of the speech, keep your mind on how they use variances in tempo to make their words more effective. You’ll find the links below the exercise below.
The Exercise –
- Choose one of the talks and watch 1-2 minutes from some point near the middle of the talk.
- Rewind and watch it again as you start speaking along with the person.
- Rewind again and really try to emulate the speaker.
- Repeat this until you can keep up with the speaker and start getting a sense of how he or she uses speed and tempo to get their message across.
Repeat Steps 1-4 with another video. Keep practicing and you will quickly know more about the use of cadence and tempo than 90% of the speakers out there.
Links To Great Speakers Who Use Cadence Effectively
Gene, that was a powerful and informational presentation. Your credibility was evident and the content, organization and delivery was excellent. Thank you!
I enjoyed your presentation, especially your emphasis and info on connecting to your audience. Two Thumbs Up!