How To Speak So People Will Want to Listen

Watch Julian Treasure’s full TED Talk here.

As we all know, it can be very difficult to attract or hold people’s attention at times in everyday life. In conflict settings, it can be even harder. Sometimes, it is not only what you say, but how you say it. Whether you are a mediator or you are an individual involved in a conflict, the following voice tools highlighted by Julian Treasure in his Ted Talk could help you communicate more effectively and find a resolution more quickly.


A vocal register is a range of tones in the human voice produced vibratory patterns of the vocal folds. These registers include modal voice (or normal voice), vocal fry, falsetto, and the whistle register.  While speaking in falsetto will not get you very far (except maybe in Disney World – a la Mickey Mouse), you can use lower registers as a tool to gain gravitas. According to Treasure, “We vote for politicians with lower voices… because we associate depth with power and with authority. That’s register.”


Timbre is the tone or quality of your voice; how it feels. Research shows that human beings prefer to listen to voices that are smooth and warm.  Treasure says, “Well if that’s not you, that’s not the end of the world, because you can train. Go and get a voice coach. And there are amazing things you can do with breathing, with posture, and with exercises to improve the timbre of your voice.”


In speech, prosody is the patterns of stress and intonation which people use. It is the basis for imparting meaning in conversation. To be an effective speaker, it is important that you are not monotone.  Speaking without variation is very difficult to listen to. Repetitive prosody is also to be avoided. Nowadays, a common speech blunder is to end statements as if they are questions.  This can confuse the listener and impede your ability to communicate through prosody.