Your voice is one key to an especially powerful business presentation . . . or a disastrous one.
Your voice and your appearance are the constants that pervade your presentation from start to finish.
Voice is one of the seven dimensions along which we measure the Power Presenter, and a strong, clear, confident voice is one of the seven secrets of powerful presenting.
Paradoxically, we take our voices for granted. Because we do, this nonchalant attitude can undermine us and destroy all of our hard work.
But you can become quite a good speaker, a presenter whose voice exudes confidence and is welcomed by the ear.
“If nature has not endowed you with a good speaking voice, you can do much toward acquiring one. The organs of speech can be trained, like any other part of the body, by assiduous attention and practice.”
You can do many things to improve your voice – your articulation, your power and range, your force and tone. If you decide that you want to move to an advanced level of presentations and are drawn to improve your voice’s quality through study and practice, many books and videos and recordings are published each year to help you along.
Much of the best writing on voice improvement was produced in the years when public speaking was considered an art – between 1840 and 1940 – and the advice contained therein are about as universal and timeless as it gets.
The reality is that the human voice is the same now as it was 100 years ago and responds to the proven techniques developed over centuries.
Ready for Change
It’s time to recognize that your voice is not a sacred artifact, nor is it some precious extension of your very being. It’s an instrument with which you communicate. You can sharpen your communication skills by improving your voice. Simply thinking of your voice in this way will improve its quality. Working to improve it with the exercise will improve its quality dramatically.
Let’s consider here just two things you can do to improve your voice. Nothing extreme at all. And actually quite fun, if you approach it the right way. We have two goals.
First, we want to rid your voice of the chronic crack and rasp. That crack and rasp is a symptom of meekness – no confidence. Do you have this crack and rasp? If not, congratulations and let’s move along. But if you do . . .
“In addition to relaxing the throat muscles, the speaker should make a special effort to vocalize every particle of breath passing over the vocal cords. There should be no wheezy leakage of air.”
Push air across your vocal chords and complete your sentences. Don’t trail off at the end of every sentence with a crackling sound like folks on Disney Channel.
Second, we want to deepen your voice. Why? Like it or not, deeper voices are perceived as more credible. A Stanford University study, one among many, gives the nod to deeper voices:
Our studies show that directions from a female voice are perceived as less accurate than those from a male voice, even when the voices are reading the exact same directions. Deepness helps, too. It implies size, height and authority. Deeper voices are more credible.
Now, should things be this way? Is it “fair” that deeper voices have some kind of advantage?
But . . . but that’s not fair!
It’s no less fair than that some people are taller than others or larger or faster or rate perfect scores on the SAT. It’s neither fair, nor unfair. It’s simply the reality we’re dealt. If you want to devote your life to fighting for “voice equality,” you have my support. Have at it, and Godspeed.
If, on the other hand, you want to deepen your voice a bit so that you gain personal competitive advantage, then let us analyze what the deep-voice reality means to us.
It means that a deeper voice is more desirable for presenting, regardless of who presents, male or female. Now, the very fact that you are armed with that information empowers you. When you decide to act on it, it adds to your personal competitive advantage.
Many simple and effective exercises exist to deepen and enrich your voice. A simple awareness of your own voice-cracking should be enough to remedy that issue. Record your voice, and listen critically. A personal coach can help, or even a trusted confidante as concerned with voice as much as you. Listen to each other, coach each other, and work together to achieve an improved voice.
No, your voice is not a sacrosanct. Voice is the second secret – the second dimension along which speakers are assessed.
Work to improve yours and you’re on your way to an especially powerful presentation style.
 Grenville Kleiser, “How to Speak Well,” in Radio Broadcasting (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1935) , 42-43.
 George Rowland Collins, Platform Speaking (New York and London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1923), 33.
 Suter, J. K. (2003). Der Eindruck vom Ausdruck–Einfluss paraverbaler Kommunikation auf die Wahrnehmung von Nachrichtensprechenden [The impression of expression–the influence of paraverbal communication on the perception of newsreaders]. Unpublished master’s thesis. University of Bern, Switzerland.
 Anne Eisenberg, “Mars and Venus, On the Net : Gender Stereotypes Prevail,” (The New York Times, 2000), http://www-personal.umich.edu/~rfrost/courses/SI110/readings/Cyberculture/Eisenberg.pdf