How to Speak So That People Want to Listen

The TED guide to speaking

How to Speak So That People Want to Listen: From declarations of love to proclamations of war, the power of speech is undeniable. However, poor speakers usually find their words fall on deaf ears. If you can relate to that shortcoming, don’t despair. According to acoustic expert Julian Treasure, with practice and guidance, you can improve our speaking skill.

If you’re interested in how to be a better listener, check Julian Treasure’s other awesome TED talk, 5 Ways to Listen Better.

How to Speak So That People Want to Listen – Pin

  • The human voice holds immense potential to effect change in the world. However, many people find their voices get lost in a world of distractions.
  • Improve your delivery by omitting the “Seven deadly sins of speaking
    1. Gossip
    2. Judging
    3. Negativity
    4. Complaining
    5. Excuses
    6. Exaggeration
    7. Dogmatism
  • The “four cornerstones of powerful speech”
    1. Honesty
    2. Authenticity
    3. Integrity
    4. Love
  • By employing the entire range of utensils in the vocal toolbox, speakers can command their listeners’ attention.
  • Listening and understanding would be commonplace if the world paid closer attention to acoustic environments, improved hearing,

How to Speak So That People Want to Listen – Summary

how to speak
Don’t panic, read on!

The human voice holds immense potential to effect change in the world. Yet many people find their voices go unheard in a world of noise. Take charge through manipulation of content and vocal mechanics that make speech powerful and engaging.

7 Sins of Speaking

Avoid the “seven sins of speaking” to ensures your influence which tend to alienate others. Those seven sins are:-

  1. Gossip
  2. Judging
  3. Negativity
  4. Complaining
  5. Excuses
  6. Exaggeration
  7. Dogmatism. – the tendency to lay down principles as undeniably true, without consideration of evidence or the opinions of others.

4 Powerful speaking cornerstones

On top of avoiding the seven speaking deadly sins, we should speak using the “four powerful cornerstones”. This can make a positive impact and provoke change:

  1. “Honesty” – Always tell the truth.
  2. “Authenticity” – Be true to yourself.
  3. “Integrity” – Stay true to your word.
  4. “Love” – Desire only the best for all people.

Our Vocal Toolbox

“The human voice: It’s the instrument we all play. It’s the most powerful sound in the world.”

Before speaking in public, prepare your voice with a thorough warm-up routine that limbers up your breath, lips, tongue and mouth.

Speakers who command attention use all the utensils in their vocal toolbox:

  • Register
    The vocal range extends from a high nasal voice to a low chest voice. People associate deeper voices with power and influence.
  • Timbre
    With training, you can adjust timbre, or texture, of your voice. People prefer to listen to “rich, smooth, warm” voices.
  • Prosody
    Injecting a “sing-song” quality into your speech holds listeners’ attention. They tune out when speakers orate in a monotone voice.
  • Pace
    Slowing down the tempo of your words can add emphasis.
  • Pitch
    Changing your pitch can convey diverse sentiments.
  • Volume
    Speaking softly can entice your audience to listen while speaking loudly can indicate excitement.

“There’s nothing wrong with a bit of silence in a talk.”


Today, people speak poorly to audiences who aren’t listening in venues that aren’t purpose-built for sound. Consider a world where people “were creating sound consciously and consuming sound consciously and designing all our environments consciously for sound.” In these surroundings, hearing, listening and understanding would be commonplace.

Julian Treasure’s Book

Further Readings


Author: Muhamad Aarif

A notorious book addict by night and an oil and gas executive by day. As Mark Twain said, "The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." So, read, read, and read some more.

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