“Come a little closer and I’ll tell you a magician’s secret to capturing the eyes and ears of an audience,” I said to my young apprentice. He leaned forward and in a low conspiratorial tone I said, “Whisper loudly.”

He looked at me like I had lost my mind.

I tried again, this time sounding like Yoda from Star Wars: “Those who cannot hear an angry shout may strain to hear a whisper.” He nodded his head like an old sage in a youthful body, but I could see he was more focused on remembering which movie the line originated from. I didn’t have the heart to tell him the wise words came from another pointy-eared sci fi icon named Spock of the famed Star Trek television series.

It’s human nature to want the inside scoop and keep ahead of the competition. Say you’ll reveal a secret and people will listen. Determine the size of your crowd and modulate your voice for the greatest impact. Here’s how:

12 or less listeners 
Speak quietly to this intimate group with low conversational tones and you’ll put them on the edge of their seats. Add a little body language by leaning toward the group’s inner circle then begin speaking to the folks in your personal cone of silence.

24 people packed in a room
This size crowd puts you in presentation mode. Raise your vocal volume a few notches and whisper loudly. Take a deep breath and speak like you’re spreading some gossip you want to be overheard.

48 or more seats fillers 
You are the star of the show for this audience and performance level material is needed from your voice to project “soft” shouts to the proverbial back row. Fill your lungs with air and talk from the back of your throat. This technique is similar to a whisper but with a stronger push from your diaphragm – practice may be required. Large seated engagements frequently supply a microphone, so speak into the mike and follow the suggestions for 12 or less listeners.

Vocal variety is necessary in every speech. Adding a little verbal cloak-and-dagger by shouting secrets softly helps engage your audience. Adjust your voice according to the size of the group and you’ll have listeners leaning in your direction.

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