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Jul 1, 2014

Sounds Like Success!

Forget the old, erroneous 55% - 38% - 7% rule that has been bandied about by consultants and trainers for so long. The sound you make when you speak not only sets the ‘tone’ of your communication but also how it will be interpreted, how you’ll be perceived and how your message will be evaluated – 80% of the time.  

 According to a recent study by a communications analytics company based in Austin Texas the sound of a speaker's voice matters twice as much as the content of the message. The result came from recording 120 executives' voices that were then analysed by a panel of 10 experts and 1,000 listeners. Voice quality accounted for 23% of listeners' evaluations; the content of the message accounted for 11%.

 Prof Casey Klofstad, from the University of Miami carried out a study that revealed that there was a distinct difference in perception between male and female voices. It seems like we prefer males with bigger, deeper sounding voices but disturbingly it was revealed that females presenting with low pitched, huskey voices were perceived as less attractive, less competent, less educated and less trustworthy. However women with low ‘breathier’ voices were considered more healthy, alluring and youthful.

 There is a trend towards more authentic sounding voices (male and female) with a slight increase in volume, intensity, enthusiasm and energy behind the voice. But heavy ‘upward’ inflections that make every sentence sound like a question was a definite no no.

According to a study of 74 adults published recently in the Journal of Voice people with speaking voices at medium speed, medium rhythm, medium pitch and medium volume are more often perceived as successful, sociable and smart.


Infographic from TheASHA Leader

These insights are just the tip of the iceberg but with a little attention and care you can become more aware of the sound you make and take steps to improve the sound of your voice.

 I think it’s safe to suggest that most of us have access to a smart phone and most smart phones have a voice recording app. So, the first step is to record your voice and listen to yourself speaking. It can be during a normal conversation with family or friends or just talking about something you are familiar with. Whn you play the recording back listen out for the following 4 aspects of your voice:


  1. Speed – Is it fast, medium or slow?
  2. Rhythm – How much do you pause or Umm and Errr?
  3. Pitch – Is it high, medium or low?
  4. Volume – Is it soft, medium or loud?


Ask at least 10 friends and colleagues for feedback on these 4 aspects of your voice and take the average on all the comments you receive as a good indication of how you sound.

 Aim to stabilize your sound in the medium range in all 4 aspects but with slightly more emphasis on volume.

 If you have a huskey, croakey voice drink at least 1.5 litres of liquid (preferably water) throughout the day to keep your vocal chords moist and hydrated. This will improve the overall health of your voice.

 If presenting and public speaking is important for your work then think about having some voice coaching. It is really useful to learn an effective breathing technique and also to begin adopting a daily, vocal exercise regime.

 If you have any persistent voice problems contact your doctor and get a referral to an ear, nose and throat specialist for a health check on your voice just to be safe.