It’s okay to raise your voice? Hmm, we don’t often hear that phrase. What we more often hear is “Don’t you dare raise your voice to me.”
Well, that’s probably true. Raising your voice during an argument will ensure that your adversarial partner will hear you, but not likely take in what you say because they’re busy making sure they will raise their own voice back at you.
Is raising your voice ever a good thing? Absolutely. By raising your voice when you’re delivering a presentation, you will ensure that you’re heard so that your message can be taken in by your listeners. How much should you raise your voice?
How we perceive loudness is subjective. What’s just loud enough for some may be too soft for others. The perception of loudness also depends on how much distance is between the presenter and the listener. Loudness can be measured objectively. Here’s how.
In physics, loudness is more accurately described as sound pressure level. The more the force or pressure pushing the sound, the louder it is heard. The unit of measurement to reflect sound pressure level is called a decibel.
During normal conversation and at a conversational distance between conversational partners, each speaker talks at about 65 decibels, that is at conversational loudness. To emphasize a particular point, the speaker may either raise or lower the loudness level. A point might be emphasized at a higher decibel level, perhaps 70 decibels. The point might also be emphasized at a lower decibel level – perhaps 55 to 60 decibels.
Even though normal conversational loudness usually is spoken at around 65 decibels, remember that the loudness level at which a listener hears a speaker depends on the distance between them. At a distance of about three to five feet, speaking at about 65 decibels would usually work just fine.
What happens if the distance between the speaker and listener increases, perhaps from five feet to twenty-five feet? Sound pressure level drops over distance. That means if the speaker continued talking at 65 decibels and the listener farthest from that speaker was twenty-five feet away, that listener might hear the speaker at about 35 to 40 decibels.
Not good! Why? Because the speaker would sound “soft” to the listener. Not only might the listener not hear everything the speaker says, but the listener might judge the speaker as soft-spoken and lacking in self-confidence.
Here’s the key to remember. Talk to the listeners farthest from you at a loudness level that would reach them just as if they were about three to five feet from you. In other words, if you measured the loudness level at a normal conversational distance, the reading should be right around 65 decibels. To make sure the listeners farthest from you can also hear you effectively, the measurement at the distance between you and them should also reach at that same 65 decibels. Of course, the reading taken at closer distances would be higher, but not so high as to bother the closer listeners.
The bottom line is to talk loud enough so that your listeners at the very back of the room where you’re presenting can hear you just as effectively as if they were sitting in the front of the room.
Not long ago, the tools to objectively measure decibels (sound level meters) were only available through expensive instrumentation. Now, they’re available to you on your smart phone through online App Stores for free or at generally low cost. Just search for “Sound Level Meters.” They will help sensitize you to your usual loudness level and help you monitor the changes you might need to make so that everyone can hear you.
And remember, “It’s okay to raise your voice.” Raising your voice will keep all of your listeners listening both near and far.