How to Use Voice to Convety Emotion & Connect with Your Audience

The human voice is a beautiful instrument, one that carries not just words, but an array of emotions. When you use your voice skillfully, you can paint a vivid picture and make your presentations more compelling and relatable. Here are some techniques that you can use to express emotion with your voice, complete with examples to help you understand them better.


Tone refers to the general character or attitude of your speech. A cheerful tone can set an upbeat mood, while a somber tone can convey seriousness or sadness. An easy example of tone: tell someone "get out!" and mean it literally or you can say it in a way that means "are you kidding?"

An INCREDIBLE example of tone is Jim Carey’s commencement address at the 2014 Graduation at Maharishi International University. In it, Carey mixes light-heartedness, humor, and seriousness surprising the audience at every turn. His superbly mixed tone constantly engages the audience generating applause and laughter every minute. Of course, he received a standing ovation for several minutes.


Cadence is the rhythm, pace, and flow of your spoken words. By varying your cadence, you can keep your audience engaged and make your speech more dynamic. Talking too fast or being monotone are two types of speaking that do not have any cadence.

When you listen to Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech, notice how the rhythm and pace of his speech ebb and flow, creating an almost musical quality that adds depth to his words.


Using a shaky voice and stumbling over words can be a powerful tool when sharing personal stories or anecdotes that revolve around fear, anxiety, or suspense. They can effectively convey the emotional state of the speaker during a particular moment.

A great example of this technique can be seen in Matthew McConaughey's 2014 Oscars acceptance speech. He chokes up at certain points especially when he talks about his family (about 3 minutes and 20 seconds in).

Whether you are truly feeling moved while displaying a shaky voice or you are mimicking the physiological symptoms of fear as you stumble over your words while sharing an experience, you allow the audience to not just hear your story, but also feel it. This helps create an immersive and emotionally engaging storytelling experience.


A higher pitch can express excitement or urgency, while a lower pitch can convey seriousness or authority.

The amazing voice actor, SungWon Cho AKA ProZD, breaks down how he changes his voice for his many cartoon roles. What's interesting about this clip is that it's all about pitch. He is amazingly talented!

The key is to understand what pitch is so that you can practice modulating it as needed in your own speeches to create a powerful, emotive connection with your audience.


Volume is another vital tool. Raising your volume can underscore an important point or show intensity, while softening your voice can draw your audience in, making them lean in and pay closer attention.

Watch Barack Obama deliver his 2004 DNC Keynote speech where he uses volume to engage the audience raising and lowering his voice volume as needed. He speaks with great volume throughout and when the audience gets loud, he gets louder and then lowers his voice as the audience gets quiet.

His masterful use of volume variation not only underscores the emotional impact of his talk but also keeps the audience engaged and invested in his every word.


A well-placed pause can create suspense, emphasize a point, or give your listeners a moment to absorb what you've just said.

For a masterclass on using pausing, watch this very short clip (28 seconds) of  The First 48's narrator, Dion Graham, as he masterfully does his famous voice over for the beginning of each of the 350 episodes. His effective use of pausing is incredible. It gives weight to his words and draws in the audience. As the narrator of all 350 episodes, he expertly uses pausing each and every time. 

In a powerful speech, all these elements often blend together seamlessly. As a skilled speaker, you can weave together tone, cadence, pitch, volume, and pausing to create a tapestry of emotions that captivate your audiences.

An Exercise for You

For your exercise, the next time you hear someone telling a story—be it a podcast, a TED Talk, a YouTube video, or a movie monologue—listen attentively. Pay attention to how they use their voice.

How does their tone shift with the mood of the story?
Can you hear changes in their cadence, pitch, or volume?
Do they use pauses effectively?
Do they stumble over words intentionally for effect?

Understanding and recognizing these techniques in others can help you apply them in your own speech, enabling you to tell more compelling, emotion-filled stories. Remember, your voice is more than a communication tool; it's an instrument capable of playing a symphony of emotions. So, take the reins and let your voice sing!

As you take your next steps towards becoming a more emotive and engaging speaker, I want to hear from you. How have you implemented these strategies in your own presentations, and what results have you seen? Have you faced any specific challenges in conveying emotion, or do you have any additional tips to share with our community of speakers? Your experiences, questions, and insights are invaluable, and they contribute significantly to this ongoing conversation. So let’s keep the dialogue going: leave a comment below and share your thoughts with me. Your voice matters, and I am eager to learn from you!

About the Author

Hi! I'm Pam. I teach entrepreneurs to be fearless & compelling speakers online and in person and how to easily promote and run their own online workshops, webinars, and online courses. 

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