You know those phrases, or small pieces of advice, that stay with you? They might be from random people, maybe from a parent or grandparent. In this case it was from a film and television teacher at my high school.
I didn’t take his classes, but I’d just presented a speech at assembly in my senior year.
This particular teacher approached me after my speech and commented on the pitch of my voice.
“You know your voice will carry further, and hold more power, if you lower it? Make it sound more masculine?”
It stung. I’d thought the speech went quite well. I wasn’t expecting critique. But his advice made me think.
The next time I delivered a speech, I did lower my voice. When I undertook internships at television stations in university, I was again told to lower my voice in front of the camera.
“Speak from your diaphragm. It sounds more authoritative.”
Now, research out of Chicago’s Booth School of Business shows how important our voice is in finding a job.
Researchers Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder found the way job candidates presented their verbal pitch was more important than the way they wrote a resume or cover letter in landing a job or promotion. The ability to speak well helped candidates appear capable and intelligent.
“The words that come out of a person’s mouth convey the presence of a thoughtful mind more clearly than the words typed by a person’s hands—even when those words are identical,” write Epley and Schroeder, who’s now at the University of California’s Haas School of Business. “A person’s voice communicates not only the content of his or her thinking, but also the human-like capacity for thinking.”
The only problem is… voices of a high pitch.
Then, the verbal pitch or conversation will work against you, instead of to your benefit.
Lower voices have been found to appear stronger, more competent, more trustworthy than high-pitched voices. Employers across a range of industries prefer to employ lower-voice candidates, particularly to leadership positions, for these very reasons.
Ironically, the opposite is true for perception of attractiveness. Women with high-pitched voices are presumed to be more attractive than women with low-pitched voices. (That’d be right).
So we know our voice plays an important role in getting us noticed professionally. We also know it’s more effective when it’s lower.
But what if a low tone of voice doesn’t come naturally? How can you lower your voice?
Television presenters ask you to breathe out before speaking. Breathe out until there is barely any air left in your lungs, clench your tummy muscles and speak from your diaphragm.
Other sources say a similar thing. That big, deep breaths, where your stomach moves and in and out, instead of just your chest, are conductive of a deeper voice.
Use posture to amplify your voice. Speak with your shoulders broad and chin up. Open your mouth naturally, don’t tense your mouth or squash your lips.
Practice. Stand up and read a book to the mirror. Work on pronunciation and enunciation. Practice speaking from your belly until a lower voice feels more natural.
Finally, feel confident. Remember, your voice should always be heard, no matter how it sounds.