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Clarity is more important than volume.  Clarity is all about articulating consonants.  If you speak clearly, you’re more likely to convince the audience you think clearly.

Vocal variety refers to characteristics such as intonation, inflection, volume, rate, pitch, pausing, etc.  The goal is that the speaker’s voice will express their emotions and attitude toward the content.  The opposite of vocal variety is a monotone quality—with no variation of pitch so that the speaker conveys little enthusiasm or liveliness of thought through the voice. 

Some vocal issues tutees may want to address include:

  1. Rate vs. pace.  Rate refers to the speed of words, whereas pace refers to the speed of ideas (the overall pace of talk).  Pacing concerns involve meeting the time requirement, and how much time the presenter should devote to specific segments of the talk.  Ideally, the time spent on each main idea of the presentation are roughly equivalent or in balance.  The OCT can note how much time is being spent on the introduction, vs. the first main point, vs. second, etc. and help the presenter apportion their time wisely to achieve their goals.
  2. Volume vs. projection.  Volume refers to the sound level, ranging from inaudible to too loud.  Projection refers to where you "place" the sound so that the voice is audible to the back of the room.  One can use articulation techniques to project one’s voice at softer volumes. 
  3. Filler words: um, uh, y’know, starting every sentence with “And” or “So..” Help the tutee identify specific words and sounds, and have them try pausing (and breathing) instead.

Non-verbal behavior


Most people have good instincts. Usually people don’t gesture too much or too little. It’s the default positions that often get people into trouble. Watch out for:

  • “my stomach hurts” (hands clenched in front of belly)
  • “fig leaf” (hands clasped just below waist)
  • “hand cuffs” (hands clasped behind back), often leads to mindless swaying
  • Busy feet
  • Improvised yoga (mindless stretching, leaning)
  • Using a lectern? Hands resting comfortably, good. Clinging to lectern, bad.

Hand gestures

  • Make them meaningful
  • Incorporate variety:  enumerate, draw shapes/logical relationships with hands, point, show contrasting ideas, use rounded gestures, gesture in stereo or with one hand.
  • Avoid "air quotes" – use the voice, a change in posture, and/or a verbal citation to convey the quotation
  • Watch out for repetitive gestures, which become noticeable and predictable – help the tutee to build their gesturing vocabulary


  • An open, neutral body position, characterized by feet firmly planted on the ground, with weight evenly distributed on both feet, shoulder or hip-distance apart, and arms and hands relaxed at the sides, is recommended as a default position.  This open position sends a simple nonverbal message of confidence.
  • Purposeful movement is desirable if the speaking situation allows, but beware of repeated pacing back and forth – which may appear motivated by nerves or lack of restraint rather than a desire to connect with the audience.

Recommendations for addressing delivery in the Tutoring Session

  • Watch video together
  • Filler words: point them out, use video
  • Bad posture: try with or without podium (if appropriate)
  • If student is working from a script, encourage note cards instead
  • Lack of emphasis: underline things to emphasize
  • Overall, OCT should show/demonstrate (don’t just describe). Repeatedly practice small portion of talk to pay close attention to delivery