by Connie Dieken

Is Your Voice Undermining Your Success?

The difference between winning and losing may come down to how people perceive the sound of your voice.

As a broadcaster, I spent many years in recording studios. I was astounded to learn there was a major difference between how my voice sounded inside my head...and the way it sounded when the engineer played back the recording. I didn't come across nearly as energetic or upbeat as my voice sounded in my head. Instead, I sounded flat and bored. I had to learn to boost my energy level to compensate.

voice-over-pictureThe same is likely true of your voice. You may be coming across as bored, disinterested, stiff or icy - even when you don't intend to. Why is this critical? Because it has a direct impact on how others respond to you and your leadership.

Let's take your outgoing voice mail message as a quick barometer. Ever listen to it? Most of us think the recording is distorted and doesn't sound like us. We assume we sound much better in real life.

Sadly, we're dead wrong.

Today's digital doesn't lie. The recording is far more accurate than the voice you hear inside your head. That's because you have a distorted perception of how you sound. Why? Your head acts as an echo chamber. Your bones reverberate when you talk, so your voice sounds bigger, louder and more energetic inside your head than it does when it mixes with oxygen and others hear it.

Worried that you aren't coming across well? Here are a few tips to help you stop repelling and start attracting with your voice:

  • Use vocal variety. Don't hypnotize or lull people to sleep by speaking in the same continuous tone. Sameness is the death of any speaker. Switch it up. Use all the range in your voice - highs, lows, and mid-tones.
  • Shift the speed. Speed is another energy indicator. A constant rhythm is a sedative to the ears. Don't drone on at the same pace. Shift between faster and slower speeds.
  • Use shorter sentences. Some people sound boring because every sentence they speak is long. Toss in shorter sentences as often as you can. You'll be amazed at how this breaks the monotony and makes people sit up and take notice.
  • Use the "Power Pause." After you make an important point, let it breathe. Don't rush to fill the silence. People are intrigued by momentary silence, so throw in what I call the "Power Pause" when you need to command attention. Let a point sink in and you'll gain power.
  • Thin is not in. Your voice is shaped by breath support. Breathing too shallowly and speaking from the throat creates a thin, weak voice. Instead, breathe deeply from your diaphragm. Go to the gut. It can make your voice sound richer, more powerful, and a full register lower.
  • Check your intensity. Sometimes you need to tone it down and not come on too strong - especially if you're delivering bad or unwelcome news. Match your energy level to the specific situation.

Energy boosts likability, which is a key ingredient to generate commitment from others. Likability forms the framework for the rest of the signals people gather about you and the ideas that you communicate.

So improve your voice - and you'll improve your ability to influence and make things happen.


Topics: Influence and Leadership :: Executive Presence :: Communication Skills :: Speaking