The inbox here at ECG's Speak Previews® has gotten quite a few deliveries in the past several months. We do respond personally to each writer, but we'd also like to share some of the concerns and comments we've received.

Each extends the conversation in valuable ways.


One reader commented that he's bothered when a speaker stoops over a microphone in order to speak directly into it. It's awkward, he added, and really not necessary—audio professionals can be trusted to position the mic for maximum effectiveness. And to prepare for those occasions when audio assistance is not available, a speaker should learn the basics of mic placement.

Stooping over a microphone not only distorts the body but also affects vocal quality. Twisting or bending the neck puts the voice at a biomechanical disadvantage; the sound waves produced will bounce around the throat rather than flow out toward the audience.

So stand straight, align your head with your spine, and give your voice the space it needs to create rich and varied sound. You'll create a more commanding presence, too.


One's rate of speech depends not only upon the features of a particular language but the cultural, regional, and individual characteristics of a speaker. But a few readers wondered what rate is optimal and asked how many words-per-minute they should aim for.

Audiobooks are generally recorded at a rate of 150-160 WPM; it's a speed that's comfortable for most people.

That's a fair target—but there is no perfect rate. You'll always need first to adjust your pace to listeners' familiarity with the language and the topic. Then, you can help audience members make meaning of what they hear by using a rate that varies with the importance or complexity of what you are saying. In general, slow down for major messages and even punctuate the most critical points with 3-5 seconds of silence; doing so assures much higher audience retention.


A skill often hard to master and practice, listening may become even more difficult during distance or virtual meetings, one reader observed. Participants in such meetings have fewer cues and signals to use as they build understanding. They may need "a whole new set of tools and 'meeting etiquette'" to manage the increased challenges posed by distance meetings.

We agree. Our series of articles on teleconferencing addresses some of these challenges; one of them offers suggestions of ways speakers may need to change their delivery techniques to compensate for the lack of cues that ordinarily help listeners engage. We're working now on a webinar that will specifically address the issue and its wide range of concerns.

Some of our readers joined us in listening to sound expert Julian Treasure speak on "5 Ways to Listen Better," a recently posted TED Talk. A proponent of "conscious listening," Mr. Treasure often presents on the importance, vicissitudes, and dangers of sound, suggesting that it's an element of 21st century life that bears closer attention.