I always wonder whether there are some particular rhythms (or tones) people use while presenting their work. It seems many people I have seen talking have some particular style and they repeat that through out the talk.

Personally, I feel very uncomfortable while giving a talk although my English is not that bad. Thought this type of rhythm might help me dealing with this "uneasiness". Looking for your advice..

  • 1
    Polka, with a dark tone. Nov 23, 2015 at 1:27
  • @AnonymousPhysicist this reminds me to Ievan Polkka, from Hatsune Miku
    – Ooker
    Nov 23, 2015 at 8:57
  • Not sure what you mean by tones.... Perhaps you could listen to some Ted talks and point us to an example of what you have in mind? Nov 24, 2015 at 22:52

3 Answers 3


Everybody has to find their own style and "voice." Perhaps in some people, that might come out in a sort of rhythm or tone. In my own talks, when I am comfortable and happy with my material, I often settle into certain characteristic pattens of emphasis and pause, fast and slow. Watching people give good talks and studying their style can be a useful tool for figuring out how you relate to various tactics, and perhaps give you more comfort in their diversity, by showing that you do not have to strictly conform to any particular pattern. Your "voice," when you find it, however, will be uniquely your own.


Agreed with @jakebeal that one finds one's own style, tone and rhythm being two aspects of it. I think most academics don't think about tone and rhythm explicitly, but they're useful ideas (I come from a performing arts background, where we sometimes do think of those explicitly). I'd say that if they appeal to you as frameworks for your speaking style, or tunable "parameters," then experiment with them.

Some off-the-cuff thoughts:

  • It's easy to go too fast if you're nervous, or otherwise not thinking about your rhythm and/or timing. Without speaking deliberately slowly, take your time a little, and don't rush. People need time to absorb what you're saying.
  • One useful structuring in music is to present a melodic theme A, then present a variation or a complementary theme B, and then bring them together A+B. If your talk lends itself to something like that, you might deliberately structure it that way. For example, present your main point, the thesis (A), elaborate on consequences of that thesis (B), and then reiterate the thesis and how the consequences you mentioned can/will lead to further study (A+B).
  • A lot of folks use their slides as prompts for their speaking. This functions well enough, but better talks are those where the visuals support your message, not the other way around. One consequence of using slides as prompts is to make your rhythm irregular, since there's a lag between changing the slide and remembering what you wanted to say there. Again, I think this is okay much of the time, but talks that flow better do not do this, in my opinion. They have a structure of their own, and slides (if any) change in sync with what you're saying.
  • It's very much a matter of taste, and of what's appropriate in the circumstances (e.g., addressing a kindergarten class, or giving a keynote at Commencement, or a rowdy faculty meeting), but tones people tend to take are: studious, comic (witty, corny, self-deprecating, etc.), relaxed, confident, enthusiastic, etc. Use what you feel strongest in, and experiment.

Hopefully something in there is helpful :)


I agree and upvote both previous answers, and just offer this checklist in addition:

1) Do not try to adopt an artificial inflection or tone. You'll wear it like a bad suit.

2) Do try to express your wonder and enthusiasm about the subject matter.

3) DO use personal vernaculars and colloquial "common man" phrases in your presentation.

4) If you can't describe your ideas to a nine-year-old child, you can't describe your ideas. Fit your program to your audience. Don't drill down to level 29 for investors.

5) DO express your enthusiasm.

6) DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT...(did I forget to emphasize "do not?") read powerpoint slides verbatim to your audience. You will be dismembered and killed and otherwise inconvenienced if you do this.

EDIT: It is a very VERY good idea to do some practice read-throughs of your presentation with some kind of rhythmic music in your ears. The music is there to give you a PACE REFERENCE. Do not, however, play bad amateur techno soundtracks behind your ACTUAL presentation.

Have you ever been at an author's reading, where that author was like a runaway train careening off the rails into the ravine below? That's PACE. Ever watched an amateur golfer try to rip a tee shot and instead scuttle it just past the "ladies tees?" PACE. Ever sat through a lecture with an ancient wizard-of-the-arts who was nonethless apparently overdosed on thorazine? PACE.

Your pace wants to be conversational, it wants to seem natural and unforced. Too slow and you bore your audience and lose them. Too fast and you overwhelm your audience and lose them.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .