Part Two: Stop Giving Up Your Power When You Speak

How we show up vocally leads people to definite and immediate conclusions about how we show up in the world. Simply put, there is a strong relationship between vocal acoustics and the psychology of perception: who we are as individuals, our personality, our strengths, and also our weaknesses are unmasked in the voice. Is she strong, does she take the initiative, can she motivate, is she confident? Or is she a non-starter, timid, and seems to lack the necessary energy to drive results?

Your listeners decide in just seven seconds.

When you walk into a room, you may look the part. Your business accomplishments may indicate that you’re an achiever. But the moment you begin to speak, your audience will be listening carefully to gauge if your voice and message is congruent with your appearance and resume. You may be the expert in the room, but if you speak in a quiet voice that is difficult to hear, through a small, tight mouth that gives the impression you are afraid, you’re not going to be perceived as a credible “expert” of anything. 

In my practice as an executive voice coach, I often work with clients to identify and correct specific verbal affectations that diminish a speaker’s power and authority. The video clips below highlight two common problems: “Up-talk” and “Vocal fry.” Please view the clips and see if you may have developed these habits, yourself:

  • Up-talk is a constant upward inflection in pitch, making words and phrases sound less like statements and more like questions.
    VIDEO CLIP: “Up-talk”
  • Vocal fry occurs when the voice is pitched too low for the anatomical structure of the individual, resulting in a dry, croaking sound. Women should never lower their natural vocal pitch just to “fit in” with male colleagues.
    VIDEO CLIP: “Vocal fry”

Up-talk and vocal fry are of course just two of many common problems in vocal production and intonation; a professional voice coach can quickly evaluate your speaking style, and work with you to remedy any issues.

In my next post, I’ll talk about the all-important element of presence, as it relates to verbal communications.

“We have consistently heard women say that they feel less effective in meetings than they do in other business situations. Some say that their voices are ignored or drowned out. Others tell us that they can’t find a way into the conversation. Their male colleagues and managers have witnessed the phenomenon. In fact, several men reported seeing a female colleague get rattled or remain silent even when she was the expert at the table.” -Harvard Business Review


Hillary Wicht is an executive voice coach who helps clients develop their voices for leadership, so they can step more fully into their power and influence. She empowers voices in board rooms, court rooms, sales meetings, and on the stage—building competence and confidence, and helping women to discover an impactful voice and presence that creates success in their careers and lives. Contact or 310-916-6262.


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