how to make my voice sound better on the phone

Do you spend a lot of time on the phone? Ever wished you could:

  • Sound more powerful?
  • Increase your vocal presence?
  • Make your phone calls more impactful?

We did a fascinating experiment on vocal power and have some incredible tips for you on how you can make your voice sound better and how to benefit from every single phone conversation.

As we spend more and more time on the phone in virtual workplaces, we wanted to know some of the science behind our vocal power. Here’s what we found out:

#1. You Have a Vocal First Impression

When most of us think about having an important phone interview or virtual meeting, we usually prepare our answers and think about great things to talk about. But this fact blew my mind:

People judge how trustworthy you are within HALF A SECOND.

Research shows that your “Hello?” might matter more than prepared clever anecdotes or great answers. Your vocal first impression happens the moment you answer the phone and say, “Hello?” or “This is Vanessa.” Or…one time I called a big VIP and he answered, “Speak.” Yikes!

Here’s the problem: We are usually most nervous in the first few seconds. So our “hello?” comes out as breathy, high pitched or nervous sounding.

#2. People Can Hear Your Mood

In our human behavior research lab, the Science of People, we wanted to test the power of our hello’s. In the first part of our experiment, we had participants record six different versions of their typical: “Hello?” We wanted to see if the very same person sounded different.

  1. Normal Hello  (This is the control)
  2. Happy Hello (Thinking of something that made them happy and holding a Happiness Microexpression)
  3. Sad Hello (Thinking of something that made them sad and holding a Sadness Microexpression)
  4. Angry Hello (Thinking of something that made them angry and holding an Angry Microexpression)
  5. Power Posing (While adopting a Power Pose)
  6. Normal Hello (One more control once they were warmed up)

The results were clear. The very same person sounded incredibly different! *You can see and hear real participants from our experiment and test your skills in the video above!*

This means people can hear your mood. If you are having a bad day and answer the phone irritable and with an irritated expression, it changes the sound and tone of your voice.

#3: How to Sound More Confident

The next part of our experiment is where things got even more interesting. We took the recordings and asked readers like you to rate them on likability. We had each participant play a clip and then choose from three answers:

how to sound confident over the phone

Can you guess which hello was rated as the most likable?

  • Happy Hello  
  • Sad Hello  
  • Angry Hello  
  • Power Posing
  • The Normal Hello  

We found distinct patterns among the clips. There was a clear winner for likability. The most likable voice was the Happy Hello! We actually were surprised by this — we guessed the Power Posing hello would do best. Boy, were we wrong! Even the participant’s normal hello did better than the power posing hello.

Anger rated the absolute worst — not surprising.

If you are having a bad day, just got a bad email while waiting on hold, or are rushing around in traffic while making calls, this irritability can translate into your voice and make you extremely unlikable.

#4: My Favorite Voice Exercise

If you want to sound like a leader, you have to speak with your maximum resonance point. This is where your voice is most relaxed and portrays confidence. Here is my favorite vocal exercise to find your maximum resonance point:

Here is a link to a keyboard if you want to play around with your notes.

#5: Find Something to Smile About

I have one final tip for you, and it is to find something to smile about. Genuine happiness is better than a fake smile any day. Some ideas:

  • Don’t check email right before getting on a call or while waiting on hold. You are bound to see something you don’t like. This risks a possible angry expression or response.
  • Pull up the person’s LinkedIn profile picture while you speak with them. Sometimes we have trouble connecting over the phone. If you simulate the feelings of being in person, you are more likely to smile more and use more hand gestures. This warms up your voice.
  • Never, ever answer the phone in a bad mood. Remember, your emotions are contagious:

Bonus: 10 Successful Phone Strategies

If you want some more verbal exercises, be sure to check out our post on 10 Successful Phone Strategies!

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Lead Investigator, Science of People

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

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