Your voice telegraphs not only your energy, enthusiasm, and authority
but, when used properly, can also be a powerful signal that something
you’re about to say or have just said is important. So can you do
anything about what you actually sound like? And should you?
A study from Duke University and the University of California San Diego, reported on by The Wall Street Journal, says that answer is a resounding “yes.”
The study analyzed speech samples from 792 CEOs from the Standard and
Poor’s 1500 stock index based on their vocal pitch. Researchers found
that CEOs with deeper voices managed larger companies and made more
money, in some cases to the tune of $ 187,000 more. Previous voice studies have shown that voters preferred political candidates with deeper voices.
So what does this mean for you? Well, there may not be much you can do
to have a deeper voice — but there are some steps you can take to
improve your vocal delivery.
Here are three tips:
1. Learn to breathe correctly. Take a deep breath. If your chest expands, you aren’t breathing correctly. Try it again, but as you breathe in, push your stomach out.
Make sure your chest doesn’t move. Now begin talking and expending that
air you’ve taken in. Your stomach should be moving in. That’s
diaphragmatic breathing (a singing technique), and the benefits are
enormous for speakers. Breathing properly makes your voice fuller, more
resonant, and less nasal—and it gives you better breath control, meaning
you won’t gasp for air as often.
2. End your sentences as statements, not questions. Be careful to
avoid vocal “upticks,” which occur when your pitch gets higher at the
end of a sentence. An uptick makes you sound as if you’re seeing
permission rather than making a statement—and too many of them will
diminish your credibility and authority.
3. Vary your volume to suit your purpose. Speaking loudly adds
energy and excitement to your delivery; speaking softly increases
intimacy and drama. Don’t rely on one or the other, though; do both,
choosing the right volume based on the words and phrases of a given
One more note about this study: It applied only to male CEOs. A separate, smaller study by Quantified Impressions
released this month analyzed the voices of female CEOs. Researchers
found that the pattern did not hold for women as it did for men,
finding, “The voices of 10 top female executives are closer in pitch to
the average for all women.”
Instead, the study said: “Female leaders stand out for the ‘vocal
energy,’ or variations in loudness, they use to drive home their points.
An energetic voice comes across as authentic, inspiring trust.”
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