What makes an effective inspirational leader? A quick google search conjures up words such as courage, honesty, vision, confidence, and integrity. While these are all important and salient features of an effective leader, an additional imperative characteristic is outstanding communication skills. Exceptional communication skills include not just what you say but how you say it. Your pitch, intonation, rate of speech, and volume all contribute to your level of authority.
Your Voice Matters
Research shows that a deeper voice conveys authority. Duke University and the University of California researched the vocal pitch of male CEOs in 800 companies in relation to their salaries.
Results indicated that the CEOs with deeper voices were leaders of larger companies and, in turn, made more money. According to the study, a lower vocal pitch of just 25% corresponded with an increase of $187,000 in annual salary. In addition, CEOs with lower voices experienced a longer tenure at their respective organizations.
The same appears to hold true for women. Various studies have indicated that females with lower pitched voices are perceived as more confident, trustworthy, and strong.
Does this mean that you should attempt to speak in an artificially low voice?
It means that when you are in a professional environment, you should speak in your optimal pitch, not your habitual pitch. Your habitual pitch is your regular voice; however, it may not necessarily be your best voice. Using your optimal pitch will project your most rich and vibrant tones that are preferable for professional settings and leadership.
How to Achieve Optimal Pitch
There is an easy way to identify your optimal pitch. To find your optimal pitch say “uh-huh.” Produce “uh” from the mid-range of your voice and then “huh” from a lower range of your voice. Practice this technique a few times.
Notice that when you say “huh,” the tone is a rich, full sound. This is your optimal pitch. Now say “uh-huh” to identify your optimal pitch and then practice speaking in this pitch by stating your name, address or days of the week in this pitch. It may be helpful to record yourself and judge your ability to maintain this pitch.
Another easy way to obtain a lower pitch is to think about talking from your lower neck and chest. This will automatically lower your pitch and help you convey authority.
Find Your Rhythm
Intonation is the rhythm or melody of your speech. In other words, it’s the peaks and valleys of your speech. Think about the speakers whom you find inspirational. Do they have monotone speech or are there frequent variations in pitch and rhythm? Do they say every word flat or do they create lively speech by emphasizing important words?
Chances are, the speakers you enjoy listening to implement rhythm and emphasis, which entices the listener. When you are speaking in a meeting or giving a presentation, think about catching your listener’s ear by emphasizing key points by drawing out vowels and adding stress to a word.
For example, “Implementing this initiative is aaabosoluuutely impaaraative to our success.” Adding stress and intonation allows you to emphasize your salient points and speak in a more interesting, inspiring manner.
Talking too fast is a common problem for speakers. Have you ever watched speakers on Ted Talks? One thing you will notice is they speak slowly in general, speed up occasionally in order to demonstrate passion, and slow down even more to make a point. In addition, they pause for effect. It can be difficult to change any habit, including talking too fast; however, there are steps you can take to slow down.
- Record yourself: It’s important to realize how fast you talk and how it sounds to your speaker. If you have an upcoming presentation, record your practice run and focus on speaking slowly.
- Pause often: Pausing often controls the pace of your delivery. In addition, pausing prior to an important point can engage your audience.
- Get rid of nerves: We often speak fast because of nerves. Prior to a public speaking engagement or a stressful meeting, practice techniques to get rid of your nerves, such as deep breathing.
- Articulate: Focus on your articulators (your tongue, teeth, lips, and roof of your mouth) when you speak. Make sure to use a full range of motion and feel your articulators contacting one another. This will make your speech sound more articulate and will also slow down your speech.
- Self-monitor: When you are speaking in public, monitor how fast you are talking. If you notice your rate is too fast, pause, take a breath, and speak slower. It’s okay to reset your rate of speech in the middle of a discourse.
A soft quiet voice doesn’t convey authority or leadership. You must have adequate breath support to effectively project your voice. The power of your voice comes from your lungs. When you inhale, the diaphragm lowers as the rib cage expands, drawing air into the lungs. When you exhale, the air exits the lungs, traveling up the trachea and into the larynx, where your “voice box” is located.
This airstream provides energy for your vocal cords to vibrate and produce sound. The stronger the breath support, the stronger the voice projection. For optimal projection, take breaths from the midsection or diaphragm, rather than your chest. This type of breathing, called diaphragmatic breathing, will provide you with adequate power for your voice, allowing for your best projection.
An important factor for success, whether it be in your personal or business life, is effective clear speech and communication skills. Your pitch, intonation, rate of speech, and volume all contribute to your level of authority and effectiveness.
Your Voice Matters.