You can learn to make your voice sound better and love how you sound on the phone, in meetings and while speaking. And it is worth the effort!

Your voice is incredibly important for how you come across to others. When preparing for meetings, phone calls or public speaking events, most people carefully plan out what they’re going to say or wear, but people often forget to take care of their voice.

Research shows that we know people high-power voices when we hear them. Yes, there is a sound to status!

What can we do to improve the sound of our voice?

1. Learn How You Sound 

How do feelings affect your voice? Brian Tracy recommends recording yourself in a few different contexts and tracking how your voice changes. Record your end of your conversations in the next few days when you:

  • Talk to a client
  • Talk to your parent or your child
  • Present in a meeting
  • Talk to yourself in the car
  • Chat with friends

Do you sound different? For example, I noticed that my husband speaks higher when he speaks to his parents on the phone — almost like he goes back to being a kid (crazy!), but he speaks very deeply on the phone to clients.

Listen to what your voice sounds like relaxed, having fun, and in stressful situations. You may find that your voice is low and slow when you’re speaking to yourself but with your friends it rises because they increase your energy levels and, when you’re presenting, your normally slow and steady rate suddenly increases. Once you’re aware of how your emotions affect your voice, you can work on the specific areas that need improvement.

Here’s your most important assignment with this one. 

Who triggers you to NOT like the sound of your own voice?

Does your boss make you nervous? Do you speak higher and nasally to your kids? You might have a vocal trigger.

After Margaret Thatcher became aware of how her soft voice was leading people to underestimate her as a leader, she listened to herself and made improvements until her public speaking voice was transformed from sweet and gentle to powerful. Check out her before and after voices:

2. Be Your Own Vocal Coach

For our series, “The World’s Most Interesting People,” I sat down with one of the world’s leading experts on voice, Roger Love!

He has worked with Selena Gomez, Tony Robbins, Gwen Stefani, John Mayer, Keira Knightley, Angelina Jolie, Bradley Cooper and Joaquin Phoenix just to name a few…umm amazing!

He is one of the few vocal coaches who works with singers, speakers and professionals like us. He has produced more than 100 million CD sales worldwide.  Here are the exact strategies he used with these stars on making your speaking voice sound better:

Roger wants you to remember one BIG idea:

Your voice can change your life.

Here’s what he had to say:

“It comes down to the fact that people don’t realize that the words they’re using are actually helping them create the life that they want. They think if they have the right words that their YouTube followers would follow them more. They think if they have the right words and were asking somebody on a date, the person would say yes. They think if they were in a business situation and they had the right words, they could close the deal. 

But the truth is that science has proven that theory wrong. The words used hardly matter at all. 

In 2017, Yale did a study that researched speaking patterns. They found that what makes you believe someone, what makes you like someone, what makes you trust someone isn’t the specific words used. Why? Because most people have learned to lie with their words.  

People have learned to lie with words, so you can’t always trust them.

And then for years, people were thinking your physicality and your body movements were what made people believe you or like you or want to listen to you. But we’ve also learned to lie with our physicality. The words are not always telling the truth and the body doesn’t always tell the truth either. This Yale study basically said the only thing that’s truthful are the sounds your voice makes. When you listen to someone, no matter what they say you instantly feel something good or bad based on the sounds. But most people don’t even listen to themselves. 

Do you like your voicemail?

When is typically the only time someone listens to themselves? When they record their voice on a voicemail message when they get a new phone. They record their message and they listen back, thinking “Yuck! That’s horrible.” And then they try again and again and again. And then after about 30 minutes on average, they’re like “Oh I can’t spend anymore time working on my voicemail message. That’ll just have to do.” That voice that you settled with on your voicemail message? Well, that’s the voice that you’re going through life with. 

So, how do I save the world? By changing people’s voices so that they move people emotionally and so they can have communications that get them the results that they want. ” – Roger Love

3. Use a Vocal Warm-Up

The biggest culprit to voice dissatisfaction is simply that our voices aren’t ready to be amazing when we want to use them.

Ever hop on a call when you haven’t spoken to anyone for 3 hours while you checked email? Your voice sounds horrible! But, of course.  Your muscles need to warm-up before a run. Your voice needs to warm-up before a speech, presentation or call. 

Get in the habit of doing a quick 3 minute vocal warm-up before your calls, meetings or pitches. Here’s how:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eDcHZZn7hU

5 vocal warm-ups you can choose from here.

4. Master Your Breathing

How do you actually change your voice? According to Toastmasters, the first step in developing a strong public speaking voice is mastering your breathing. Females in particular make the mistake of not breathing deeply enough which causes their voices to sound high and weak. Breathe deeply and at a controlled pace.

And most important, blow a strong breath out BEFORE you start speaking. Many people take a breath in and start on the intake. You want to start on the out breath.

Develop a habit of breathing deeply throughout the day so that when it comes time to speak, this is your natural breathing pattern and you’ll have less trouble doing it when your nerves kick in.

5. Stay Hydrated

Another easy trick to ensure your voice is always “public speaking ready” is to never let your vocal cords dry out. Studies show that your hydration levels have a direct effect on the sound of your voice. The key is to not wait until right before your speech to start drinking. Keep yourself well-hydrated during the hours leading up to your speech so that your voice doesn’t dry out while you’re speaking.

6. Stand Ready to Speak

It’s not just your breathing and vocal cords that have a physical effect on your voice. Public speaking coach Kate DeVore says that when public speaking, it is essential that you stand or sit with your back straight. This makes your voice stronger and more clear by allowing you to breathe deeper. It also has the added benefit of making you look more confident.

The reason this works is it creates more space in your chest, vocal cords and mouth. The more space you create in your body, the easier it is for you to get breath, volume and power behind your voice.

Action Step: If you can, stand while you talk on the phone. If you have to sit during a meeting, use the arm rests to give your body as much broadness as possible.

7. Optimize Your Speaking Rate

The optimum speaking rate is in the range of 120-160 words per minute. Speaking below that range can cause people to drown you out for being slow and boring while speaking far above it can prompt people to tune you out or get annoyed because they don’t understand what you are saying.

As a fast-talker myself, I know how difficult it can be to lower your speaking rate, especially when you feel anxious and/or excited on stage. Here are two solutions to slow down your speech:

  1. Spend time reading aloud and focus on enunciating every word. This forces you to speak slower and learn where you should be pausing.
  2. Enlist the people around you to stop you every time you are talking fast. Being interrupted and forced to repeat yourself every time you speak quickly gets annoying really fast. By having people point out when you are talking fast, it makes you more aware of your speaking habits and forces you to slow down.

8. Get Rid of Vocal Fry

You might not like the sound of your voice because you have something called Vocal Fry.

What is vocal fry? Vocal fry happens when someone’s voice sounds raspy or creaky. It’s called “fry” because it sounds like bacon sizzling in a frying pan. Vocal fry occurs when there is not enough breath being pushed through the vocal cords. When we breathe, our vocal cords separate. Then when we speak, those cords rub together and the vibration creates sound. If you speak without enough breath, your vocal cords cannot rub together and they create a creaky, hollow sound. In vocal fry, it’s as if you are hearing someone’s vocal cords rattling next to each other.

Learn how to get rid of it in our Stop Vocal Fry tutorial here.

9. Your Voice is NOT the One You Were Born With

I asked Roger: “One of the most common questions I get (and I am not a voice coach) is: “I do not like the sound of my own voice. What do I do?” 

Here’s what Roger said:

“First, they should know that they are not the voice that they are born with. Here’s what I mean with that. We get up as young adults or older adults, and we open up our mouths and sound comes out and we think that’s what Mother Nature gave us. So if it’s nasal, we’re like, “Oh thanks a lot, Mother Nature.” 

And if it’s really soft and airy we’re like, “Oh well, Mother Nature said maybe I should be a therapist.” Or if it’s all squeaky and generates vocal fry, then we think Mother Nature just gave us that so we could be guest stars on the Kardashian show or something. So we think that’s our voice. 

But here’s what actually happened. When we were babies, we just listened to the sounds that the people in our environment were using. So if mom spoke with a really nasal voice, and I had already decided really early on that I was totally into breast milk, then as soon as I could speak, I would just sound exactly like she sounded so that we would connect. We grow up sounding like the people we’re trying to connect with. And then we get older, and we think that’s our voice. But the truth is that wherever people are in their life–young, old, it doesn’t matter–they can decide how they want to sound.  

Action Step: Who would you have vocally mirrored? Think about the people in your life just for a second. Is there anyone in your life whether it was a teacher or a parent or an older sibling, where you picked up their vocal patterns? 

I’m walking down the street in Texas, and let’s say I haven’t been in Texas a long time and somebody says “Howdy!” And then the first thing that comes out of my mouth is “Howdy!” (Even though I never say this because I live in Los Angeles, this is vocal mirroring). We mirror each other so that we can connect. 

Here’s what you should immediately do if you don’t like the sound of your voice. Record yourself on your phone talking about anything or reading from anything. Just get five or six or seven sentences recorded on your device. 

Action Step: Record yourself answering the question, “What do you do?”  

Once recorded, listen back. Specifically, listen back for:

  • First, does your voice sound nasal? Does it sound like your voice is trapped in your nose?  
  • Next, when you speak, does it all kind of stay on one note or does it go up and down like a good song? Are there high notes and low notes or do you just stay on one note? If you stay on one note, that’s called monotone.
  • Finally, does your voice sound airy? You do not have to be a songwriter or a vocal coach to listen and just get your immediate feelings on your own voice. Okay, so let’s say you listened to your answer to “What do you do?” And you noticed that you stay on one note the whole time.  

Think about your voice like a piano. A piano has 88 keys, and most people are walking around speaking with two notes. How can you access more notes? You learn how to navigate stairs. 

*Listen to Roger in action in the video above*

10. Your Vocal First Impression

Many professionals think that the voice doesn’t matter or they don’t consider their vocal first impression. Roger created some fun exercises that literally tell your vocal cords where to go and how to be in the right position to make amazing sounds and also control the way that air comes in and out of the body. 

To be a great speaker and to move people emotionally with the sounds of your voice and to achieve what you want, you have to have control over the air and you have to have control of the vocal cords. If you can do that then you know how to play the instrument of your voice. 

The right warmups make your vocal cords do what they’re supposed to and fix the air. One of them is an exercise called “Goog” and it sounds like this:

Listen to Roger in action in the video above. “Goog goog goog goog goog goog goog goog.” 

In this exercise, you can have all the low notes that you need and all the high notes that you need, so when you walk in, you’re coming in as an amazing, tuned instrument. And then when the words come out, they ride out on beautiful sounds. 

Action Step: Before you walk into a meeting, before you walk into a networking event, before a speech or a pitch, carve out time to warm up your voice. 

Hopefully, we gave you some ideas in this post, but if you want to take it to the next level, Roger is offering all of our viewers and readers $50 off The Perfect Voice Collection with code “Captivate”. 

11. Conversations Are Better than “Pitches”

Public speaking expert Gary Genard says that to establish a connection with your audience, you need to speak as if you were having a conversation with specific members. When you practice, don’t focus solely on all of the things you are supposed to do to be effective. Instead, practice in front of a friend as if you were talking to them. While this approach may not be appropriate in certain professional settings, it is a great way to connect with most audiences.

The better you become at this public speaking approach, the more your audience will warm up to you because you’ll sound more genuine than if you approach your presentations with the mentality of trying to impress your audience.

Bonus: Same goes for speaking on the phone! We’ve put together 10 successful phone strategies to help you be a phone ninja, a cold-calling genius and a mobile power player.

12. Pretend You Are With A Friend

There is nothing better than sharing a good belly laugh with a friend. You know, the kind where you’re laughing so hard it hurts with happy tears streaming down your face as you try your hardest to catch your breath but you just start laughing all over again.

But have you ever noticed how your “belly laugh” has changed depending on who you’re with?

new study from PNAS has investigated co-laughter between friends and strangers. They wanted to know: can third-party listeners (966 participants from 24 different countries) determine whether the laughter clips they listened to were from friends or strangers? With an amazing 61% accuracy, yes!

Between friends, laughter tends to have a shorter length of time between bursts and is also more irregular in pitch and volume, compared to laughter between strangers.

In this hilarious (dare we say, laughable) TED Talk, neuroscientist Sophie Scott breaks down why we actually laugh:

As humans, we have 2 different kinds of laughter: real and polite.

Real laughter is the type of laughter we share with friends. It’s helpless and involuntary and is characterized by being longer and higher in pitch combined with rib contractions and whistling sounds.

This is not to say that polite laughter is “fake” by any means, it’s just more social, posed laughter. Polite laughter is used around strangers, and is often an important and necessary social cue. For example, you hear your coworkers laughing together, and you chime in to feel included or someone tells a bad joke at a comedy club, and the audience politely and respectfully laughs back at the comedian.

The majority of people are skilled at telling the difference between the two. Interestingly, both children and chimps laugh differently when being tickled compared to when they play.

Why does this matter? Sometimes pretending we are with friends can change our breath and our sound. 

Action Step: Pretend you are talking to a friend next time you are presenting. And don’t forget to encourage shared laughter!

Just for fun…here are the 12 Different Kinds of Awkward Laughs:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enJNZ8g_k84 

Bonus: Your Voice Can Help with VIPs

Roger’s voice is captivating. I think it is a major reason he is able to bond with so many celebrities. I asked him: “You’ve worked with so many VIPs. How do you bond with a huge celebrity or a huge star? You’re obviously not diving right into the vocal piece. Are you building rapport with them or using conversation starters? How do you bond with someone who is important?”

Here’s what Roger said, “I have something going on my side. These celebrities have heard that I’ve done miracles with people’s voices. I made Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix sound great for Walk the Line. I made Jeff Bridges and Colin Farrell sound great for Crazy Heart. I taught Bradley Cooper how to sing, and I made him sound great in A Star Is Born. Celebrities come to me and they’re thinking maybe I’m the doctor who has the cure. So maybe you hate your voice or you want to sing or you lose your voice. People are extra nice to me because they think I can fix it. That’s one layer. I’m also good at showcasing who I am. I’m very open and authentic. 

There’s no hidden agenda in the sound of my voice or in the words written on my face. “The voice is the window to the soul” sounds woohoo. People like to say the eyes are the windows of the soul–like look in someone’s eyes and you know what they’re thinking–well, you don’t. When I look in your eyes, I don’t know what you’re thinking, but when I hear someone’s voice, it’s authentic. You can’t lie with your voice. 

People who come in to work with me or people who come to my live events or people who watch my videos, they see that I am authentic and then they realize that I’ve spent my lifetime creating techniques to fix the problems. I don’t even like to call myself an expert. Most experts are experts at nothing other than garnering people to listen to them.

I’m a teacher, so it’s all based on techniques to fix the problems like if you’re losing your voice, you’re not going to lose your voice anymore. Or if you hate your voice, here’s how to not hate it. I have great techniques that I deliver openly and honestly with very happy and grateful positive energy. And you know, so far it’s worked out absolutely perfectly.”

Do you embody the offer mentality?

Roger is talking about the Offer Mentality. You have this knowledge as a teacher. You’re not going into meetings with people wanting something from them. You’re going in with an offer. All you want to do is authentically and openly help them. For anyone who’s watching or listening, if you’re meeting with a boss or a VIP, the absolute wrong way to do it is to think that they have the knowledge that you want or to just take, take, take. The way to do it is exactly what Roger is saying, which is I want to help, I want to be open and I want to offer something that’s going to solve one of our problems. 

Action Step: When you’re meeting with a VIP or boss or teacher or client or celebrity, the best thing you can do is think about what you can do for that person. Is there something you can teach or an expertise you can offer in an open, authentic way that’s going to draw people to you?

Want more on vocal power?

To your vocal success,

Vanessa

 

About Vanessa Van Edwards

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and behavioral investigator.

I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.

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