Is your voice worth an extra $187K a year?

An academic study links male CEOs’ professional success to the depth of their speaking voices. A separate study highlights ‘vocal energy’ in female execs.


We all know the voice is important in communicating— and a new study says it could make a difference in your salary.

Your voice telegraphs not only your energy, enthusiasm, and authority but, when used properly, can also be a powerful signal that something you’re about to say or have just said is important. So can you do anything about what you actually sound like? And should you?

A study from Duke University and the University of California San Diego, reported on by The Wall Street Journal, says that answer is a resounding “yes.”

The study analyzed speech samples from 792 CEOs from the Standard and Poor’s 1500 stock index based on their vocal pitch. Researchers found that CEOs with deeper voices managed larger companies and made more money, in some cases to the tune of $187,000 more. Previous voice studies have shown that voters preferred political candidates with deeper voices.

So what does this mean for you? Well, there may not be much you can do to have a deeper voice — but there are some steps you can take to improve your vocal delivery.

Here are three tips:

1. Learn to breathe correctly. Take a deep breath. If your chest expands, you aren’t breathing correctly. Try it again, but as you breathe in, push your stomach out. Make sure your chest doesn’t move. Now begin talking and expending that air you’ve taken in. Your stomach should be moving in. That’s diaphragmatic breathing (a singing technique), and the benefits are enormous for speakers. Breathing properly makes your voice fuller, more resonant, and less nasal—and it gives you better breath control, meaning you won’t gasp for air as often.

2. End your sentences as statements, not questions. Be careful to avoid vocal “upticks,” which occur when your pitch gets higher at the end of a sentence. An uptick makes you sound as if you’re seeing permission rather than making a statement—and too many of them will diminish your credibility and authority.

3. Vary your volume to suit your purpose. Speaking loudly adds energy and excitement to your delivery; speaking softly increases intimacy and drama. Don’t rely on one or the other, though; do both, choosing the right volume based on the words and phrases of a given moment.

One more note about this study: It applied only to male CEOs. A separate, smaller study by Quantified Impressions released this month analyzed the voices of female CEOs. Researchers found that the pattern did not hold for women as it did for men, finding, “The voices of 10 top female executives are closer in pitch to the average for all women.”

Instead, the study said: “Female leaders stand out for the ‘vocal energy,’ or variations in loudness, they use to drive home their points. An energetic voice comes across as authentic, inspiring trust.”

Christina Mozaffari is the vice president of Phillips Media Relations. Follow her on Twitter @PMRChristina. This story first appeared on the blog Mr. Media Training.

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