How to Choose the Appropriate Tone When Speaking

Sometimes it is hard to know the right way to say or write something. Sometimes it is hard to know the correct tone to take. How should I speak to these people? How formal or informal should it be?

The answers depend on lots of things: the nature and seriousness of the topic; the level of seniority of the audience; the complexity and audience’s familiarity with the issue; your familiarity with the audience; and many others.

But no matter what your answers to these types of questions are, here is my best advice. Always try to speak in an authentic way. Always try to make things simple and easy to understand. Always try to speak in a conversational way, as if you would to a group of people you know well.

In other words, speak in a way that shows you are relaxed, comfortable, and engaged with the audience. Keep it simple, all the time.

This advice works across the board, in my opinion: for business meetings or presentations, important conversations with your boss, less formal conversations with colleagues, and even things like when giving toasts and eulogies. Just speak to people in an entirely human way.

Some topics will be difficult, complex, important and formal. And that all needs to be recognized and appreciated. But you can handle sensitive topics and add in a touch of formality, and yet still be authentic, simple and conversational. They are not diametrically opposed.

Remember the great quote from Ronald Reagan, (which was probably written by his long-time speech writer, Peggy Noonan): “Always speak TO your audience, as you would a group of friends in a familiar setting.” It is great advice, always, regardless of setting or audience.

Have a great day!

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Brett Slater

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.