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Do you know of any corporate CEO who has a really bad speaking voice?  What about a top politician?  When you are trying to get ahead in life, your voice can be a key factor in how far you advance in your job.  Example, a study from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and University of California, San Diego’s Rady School of Management measured the frequency of male CEO’s voices and found that voices that measured in the lower frequency range earned $187,000 more in pay and led companies with $440 million more in assets.  This correlation although interesting isn’t a guarantee that you will get a top spot in the corner office.  This does demonstrate that people who speak in the lower register of their voice range, do tend to garner a higher level of “presence”.

For example Quantified Communications compared the top female CEOs voices to the top male CEOs voices and show a trend of women CEOs whose vocal range and energy measure more closely to the same levels as their male counterparts.  

The over use of vocal tags such as umm and like also impact the perception people have of you in regards to confidence and intelligence.  Don’t even get me started on vocal fry and up-speak.  This just screams young and inexperienced.  There is a great NPR story about this that goes into a lot more detail.   People did not speak this way at birth, they learned how.  So you can also unlearn how as well.

I was speaking to a group of women professionals at IBM a few months ago and pointed out the fact that women tend to apologize before making a point or over-use the word Sorry.  There is a very funny but dead on video from Amy Schumerthat I used which illustrates this point very well.  After my presentation someone from the audience asked me “what should I say instead of sorry”?  My response was stop apologizing and saying it all together.

So if you’ve got your sights set on a career move, you may want to think about measuring how you speak.  Here are some tips from an article published in the Wall Street Journal, s

  • Good habits and vocal awareness can make a difference.
  • Record your voice on your phone and listen to how you actually sound.
  • Ask a friend or co-worker to signal to you discreetly if you lapse into bad habits such as using ‘um’ or ‘you know.’
  • Increase your fluid intake and avoid frequent throat-clearing to keep the vocal cords healthy.
  • Ask a voice coach for breathing and vocal exercises to make your voice more resonant and relaxed.
  • See a speech pathologist or physician for persistent problems such as vocal fatigue or hoarseness.
  • Learn to warm up and rest your voice before and after intense use, such as teaching or coaching.
  • Have your hearing checked if your voice is too loud.