Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

“Say it like you mean it!”―How word emphasis plays an important role in public speaking… [Wednesdays: “Speak on the Shoulders of Giants”]

June 23, 2021

Emphasis and subordination are important in every speech or presentation.

According to Dale Carnegie in the book, “The Art of Public Speaking,”

“The gun that scatters too much does not bag the birds. The same principle applies to speech. The speaker that fires his force and emphasis at random into a sentence will not get results. Not every word is of special importance―therefore only certain words demand emphasis.”

In this article, we’ll talk about how you can effectively put emphasis on important words and subordinate unimportant terms in your talk.

This is one of the main methods that will help you deliver the intended effect of your speech or presentation to your audience.

“It’s not just WHAT you say, but HOW you say it.”

This saying is exactly true in public speaking.

As a speaker, you shouldn’t just focus on the overall structure and flow of your talk. You also have to consider other elements such as:

  • Word emphasis
  • Intonation
  • Volume
  • Pace
  • Gesture
  • Accent

Let’s focus on putting emphasis on the right words in a speech or presentation…

First things first. Why is it important to emphasize the correct words in your talk?

It’s because the meaning of what you intend to say can be different if you incorrectly accentuate some parts of your statement.

This can lead to confusion on your audience’s end.

Take a look at this sentence and notice how its meaning changes by simply putting emphasis on different words:

I intended to buy a house this spring (even if I did not).

intended to buy a house this spring (but something prevented me from doing it).

I intended to buy a house this spring (instead of just renting a house).

I intended to buy a house this spring (not an automobile, laptop, camera, etc.).

I intended to buy a house this spring (not next spring).

I intended to buy a house this spring (not during the autumn season).

See? By putting emphasis on a different word in each version of the sentence, its meaning changed.

That’s why if you want to deliver an important message to your audience, make sure you emphasize the right words. Doing so will help you get your message straight to the point.


Here are 3 public speaking hacks that will help you emphasize the right words at the right time:

  1. Record your rehearsal and review it.

    One of the ways to evaluate your use of word emphasis is to record your speech or presentation.

    This is as simple as placing your recorder somewhere near you as you speak. If you prefer to videotape yourself to see your overall performance, you might want to use a tripod or ask someone to record your rehearsal.

    Whatever your setup is, make sure the audio recording is clear so that you can hear yourself well and listen closely to how you enunciate your words.

    … and as you listen to your recorded rehearsal, ask yourself,

    “Does my way of speaking sound natural while delivering my message?”

    If your answer is “yes,” then great! You can be assured that you’ll do well in your speech or presentation.

    However, if you feel like there are still some parts where you don’t sound natural and there are awkward emphases in your statements, that means you have to adjust your talk to make it better.

    Don’t get frustrated if you keep on adjusting your speech or presentation after every recorded rehearsal!

    With consistent practice comes consistent improvements… and where there are improvements to how you deliver your talk, there’s also a higher chance to leave a stronger and lasting impression on your audience.

  2. Go to a quiet place and focus on the proper word emphasis to use for your talk.

    Aside from recording your rehearsals, you may also try this tip to see if it works better for you!

    Go to a quiet place to make sure there won’t be any distractions as you plan and practice your speech or presentation.


    Before the rehearsal proper―with all the standing, moving, and speaking out loud―take a moment to read through your whole script or outline first.

    Take note of the rhythms and tones that come out naturally as you read your material silently.

    Listen to the voice inside your head. That voice will guide you on how you normally deliver your message if you’re conversing with a family member or friend.

    Think about it this way:

    Whenever you’re in a regular conversation with others, your voice’s volume varies normally and you emphasize the right words correctly. Sometimes, you might not even be aware of how you’re saying things and yet you do it correctly!

    That should also be the case when you’re reading your script or practicing your talking points to yourself.

    Think of it as having a normal conversation with your audience. By doing so, you’ll be able to speak more naturally and emphasize the right and important words in your speech or presentation.

    You may also want to hold a pen as you read your script.

    Every time you notice a word that has to be emphasized in your actual talk, draw a symbol above it to remind yourself that it should be accentuated, both in your rehearsals and actual speech or presentation.

  3. Talk your speech or presentation out with your friends.

    Contrary to the second tip, this involves practicing your talk in a location with noise.

    ―not the distracting and annoying kind of noise, though. The “noise” we’re pertaining to here is the fun kind you experience with your friends.

    Here’s what you should do:

    Call your trusted friends over for a cup of coffee―or beer, whatever you prefer.

    Then, as you sit down with them, recite your speech or presentation as if you’re just having a casual conversation or telling a story.

    Say your message like you mean it, using your regular voice across the table while emphasizing the right words.

    If one of your friends asks a question or interjects, that’s a good indication of how your audience might react to you by the time you get up on stage to deliver your talk.

    Reminder: If you and your friends prefer talking over beer instead of coffee, make sure you don’t drink too much especially if you’re doing that the day before your public speaking engagement.

    Otherwise, you might get too drunk and instead of coming out on stage well-prepared, you’ll be dealing with a hangover and worse, all your days of hard work and practice will be put to waste!

    Practicing with your friends is okay. However, you still have to maintain a balance between being in a serious public speaking mode and having too much fun.

Using word emphasis in an effective way is one skill set that you have to consistently work on and improve. This comes with learning to subordinate less important words or phrases in your talk so you can make your most important statements stand out.

As Dale Carnegie said, doing so will help you deliver the intended effect of your message to your audience.

Keep in mind as well that emphasis is NOT synonymous with loudness.

According to Carnegie,

“To yell is not a sign of earnestness, intelligence, or feeling. The kind of force that we want applied to the emphatic word is not entirely physical. True, the emphatic word may be spoken more loudly, or it may be spoken more softly, but the real quality desired is intensity, earnestness. It must come from within, outward.”

Pay attention to how you say certain words in your speech or presentation!

As you do that, you’ll be able to effectively emphasize important words to leave a greater impact on your audience!

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Wednesdays: Speak on the Shoulders of Giants”

In a meeting with one person

…a boardroom with five people

…or a huge venue with hundreds of people

—whatever the situation or setting, it’s very important to learn and eventually master the art of public speaking.

No matter what, you always need to effectively get your message across.

What good is a presentation with awesome content if you don’t deliver it properly?

Every Wednesday, we publish different tips, insights, and secrets on how you can improve your presentation skills to captivate your audience and lead interesting discussions.

The need for great presentation skills applies EVERYWHERE.

(Small meetings with your team, big meetings with your boss, an important marketing pitch, speaking engagements for events with a big audience, etc.)

Learning these skills is not just for the corporate world. Being in other industries such as the Arts, Information Technology, Medicine, and Education while knowing how to present well will definitely give you an edge.

Have that advantage.

Hope you’ve found this week’s public speaking tip interesting and helpful.

Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s Speak on the Shoulders of Giants!


Kyle Yu
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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