There’s no doubt. Darth Vader is the man. It’s clear that he’s in control of pretty much every situation he walks into just by looking at his body language. If you just pay attention to his hand gestures, body movement, and posture, you’ll quickly get his point. He clearly understands the importance of power and presence in his nonverbal gestures.
But a man cannot just gesture with an iron fist alone and expect to keep the audience’s attention for very long. After all, he is a Sith Lord set to take over the galaxy…not a Mime Lord. Yes, he can place you in a choke hold without even touching you, but that’s not the point.
In my previous article, we looked at 3 steps you can take to transform your presence into that of a commanding Sith Lord. This time, let’s take a look at what we can learn from just listening to Vader. It’s not so much his word choices that make the difference; it’s how he says them. Now, I seriously doubt, even with all the practicing in the world that many of us will ever be able to deliver a line like James Earl Jones, but we can certainly try.
Here are just 3 steps you can take to transform your vocal delivery from that of a puny human to that of an impressive dark lord.
1. Pitch/Tone – Before Vader was the Vader we all fear and love, he was Anakin Skywalker. I think everyone will agree that Vader has a slight edge [insert sarcasm here] over Anakin when it comes to having a voice that will make you pay attention. For example, Vader doesn’t whine…a characteristic that seems to have been genetically passed down from Anakin to Luke Skywalker. Now, I can hear the detractors now. “But, Vader’s tone changed because he was hooked up to an electronic voice box!” Oh, puleeeeeze. Have you ever seen Rick Moranis’s version of Dark Helmet? No amount of electronic devices would help him come even close to the same powerful projection and pitch as Vader. Nope. Vader’s vocal power comes from his ability to control his pitch and tone to deliver just the right message as he sees fit.
2. Tempo – You ever notice how Vader never…rushes…his…message…and…we…hang…on…to…every…deliciously…dark…second? Sure, he will vary his rate of speech depending on the result he wants to achieve. This is a very important lesson in public speaking. The right tempo can generate the exact emotion you want the audience to feel at any given time during your presentation. If you want to generate excitement in the audience, then speak at a faster rate of speech. If you want to generate a feeling of calm or peace, then speak at a slightly slower than normal rate of speech. And if you want to create a sense of dread? Well, take a lesson from the master himself.
3. Pauses – If you only knew the power of the pause. Did you read that in Vader’s voice? Sorry. I just had to. But seriously, there’s nothing more powerful than a purposeful pause in the delivery of a message to an audience…especially if you want to generate a sense of anticipation.
Pauses are powerful tools in public speaking. They provide the audience with just a moment to digest what was just said. It gives them an opportunity to really let that particular part of the message to really sink in. Do you want to challenge them to change a behavior? Do you want them to feel just a little bit guilty about a certain action? Do you want them to anxiously await your next line as you take your time to deliver the final verbal blow? Then a well-placed pause is exactly the way to achieve that goal.
These are just 3 more tools you can begin practicing now in order to improve your vocal nonverbal communication skills. Take your time to master these tools and practice with them over time. After all, we cannot take over the galaxy in just a day.
Jennifer Furlong has 25 years’ experience in the communication field and teaches communication and public speaking courses in the Savannah area. She earned a B.A. and M.A. in Communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. She currently resides in Richmond Hill, Ga. with her family of canines, felines, and humans. Let's be social! Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. Just look for Professor SpeechLady. See you in cyberspace.
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