How You Sound: As Important as How You Look

She enters the client meeting; dressed impeccably, every hair in place, nails polished, well educated,  and  well-prepared.  She speaks.  Yikes!!!  Does her vocal image echo her visual image? The quality of your voice,  volume,  articulation, and body language combine to form vocal presence, a suite that either reflects your intelligence and competence…..or not!  As important as the clothes you wear and the expertise you possess are the words you use and the way in which you use and transmit them.  Your vocal image is your audible “brand” and the quality of that brand determines whether you are credible about what you are transmitting, whether your knowledge is substantive, and whether you are likeable, charismatic, and approachable enough for people to WANT to listen to what you have to say and to take you seriously.

Vocal presence can have major influence on your career path. In reality, the quality of your communication style can actually affect your listener’s perception of your capabilities and professionalism.    Your vocal presence is the vehicle to convey ‘’gravitas’’ and to minimize the differences between you (the transmitter) and your audience (the receiver).  Whether you are informing, persuading, or presenting, this vocal image is a major factor in the success or failure of your intended outcome.  These factors include, but are not limited to:
  • Volume. To be effective, voice volume should be scaled to circumstance.  Your voice should be appropriately scaled for close contact or projection to everyone in a larger room.  An intimate whisper is inappropriate for a boardroom presentation.
  •   Tonality. All dressed up in a “power suit” doesn’t impress your audience or win you any points if your voice emerges as a donkey’s bray, growly voice, or high-pitched squeak. 
  • Accents and Regionalisms.  Everyone has an accent.  It’s part of what makes you unique.  If your accent makes understanding difficult and your listener must struggle to understand you, you are not helping your cause.  The speaker must always be mindful of differences in vocabulary and usage from region to region.  The goal is always comprehension and anything that interferes with clarity of communication will subtly undermine your image and hinder the achievement of your objective.
  • Vocal Affectations. “Valley girls” don’t belong in business.  And neither do statements ending in a question (upspeak).  To be taken seriously and exude gravitas and assurance, you must not allow “vocal fry, ” “growly,” or “cute little girl” voices to be a part of your “business persona.”   A professional woman must be cognizant of pitch, word choice, distracting space fillers (“ummmm,” OK?, “like,” “you know”) and meaningless phrases or body movements like lip licking, hair twirling, head tilting, hair tossing, or looking bored or angry.
  • Word Choice. Using qualifying words or fillers can be demeaning factors to  your credibility.   Removing words like “just” from your sentences creates a more powerful sentence without changing the content.    Notice the difference between “I just want to let you know what I think could be a good solution to the problem” and “I want to suggest a potentially viable solution to this problem.
It’s a time-honored saying that you “don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. “ That wisdom still holds true.  Be sure your strengths and abilities are reflected in your vocal style.  Polish Your Vocal Image.  The effort is well worth it!