Is Your Voice Camera-Ready?

Is Your Voice Camera-Ready? 150 150 Laura Sicola


Raise your hand if you hate the sound of your voice when you hear it on a video… I bet if we were in a room asking that question everyone would have their hand raised. But here’s the thing: It’s not actually your voice that’s the problem: it’s what you do with your voice that makes it hard to listen to, and undermines your authority and charisma.

Now that we’ve acknowledged the elephant in the room, let’s look at why it happens, and what you can do about it.

One common goal of any appearance on camera is to come across as a confident and charismatic leader, representing your organization, company, or industry. You want to draw people in and connect with the audience… all of which is much easier said than done.

With all that pressure, knowing your performance will be immortalized on video, most people get nervous on camera; that’s totally normal, even when you’re comfortable with your content. And we all know about putting on a “poker face,” i.e. not letting your facial expressions show your true feelings to the world. But your face isn’t the only thing that can put our feelings on display.

Your voice will tattle on you faster than a kindergartener.

So let’s look at some ways to project a strong, clear, compelling vocal delivery. (You can jump to the end and click the photo with the video link if you want to hear demonstrations of these concepts.)

Sounding Confident

You know how they say dogs can smell fear? Well, people can hear fear. So what does fear sound like?

There are two key factors that will either create or destroy a confident voice.

The first is breath support. When you’re nervous, you subconsciously tense up and breathe shallowly from your shoulders. This pinches your voice, and makes you run out of air too fast, resulting in what’s referred to as “vocal fry.”

Vocal fry also happens when you’re hesitant, maybe because you’re afraid of making a mistake, or just feeling self-conscious. When your brain is holding back, your voice will too.

Of course, if you truly admire the way the Kardashians speak (read: irony) and want to emulate them as modern-day leaders, then keep doing what you’re doing, and fry-away.

But when you take a nice deep breath from your belly and open your throat to let your voice flow freely, it resonates in your chest cavity and head and takes on a full, rich sound.

The second is tonality, or intonation patterns, where you put your high and low pitches in your speech.

On the one hand, there are those of you who are so focused on your getting your content right and sounding smart, that there’s very little tonal variation in your voice, so you come across as robotic. That stiffness comes across as awkward and uncomfortable. It can also make you sound more like the teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off than someone who is really passionate about her topic.

On the other hand, another common pattern is referred to as “up-speak” or “up-talk,” which is that lilting pattern that sounds like you’re constantly inflecting “Right?” “Okay?” and “You know?” at every turn, and asking questions rather than making statements. This also sounds insecure, as those implied questions are persistently begging for validation: You’re right! Yes! Okay! I hear you – now stop asking questions!

And contrary to the examples in that last video link and popular stereotypes, men do this just as much as women, older and younger. There are other reasons and patterns for when this happens which I’ll have to detail in another post, or drop me a line if you’re dying for more info. But don’t assume that you’re innocent just because you’re not a recent college grad.

Strong, confident, positive intonation puts the highest pitch on the most important words for emphasis, and drops the pitch at the end of sentences, just like a “vocal period.” This declarative tone sounds confident and trustworthy.

The most engaging voice incorporates good breath support for a full, resonant voice, as well as strategically varied intonation, with the ups and downs in all the right places. Want a demo? Click on the picture below and see what you think!

Once you put all this together, you’ll realize that all those annoying habits that made you think you hate your voice have disappeared, and what you’re left with is your very best “camera-ready voice.”

Of course, it’s a lot easier to hear about different voice qualities and habits than it is to read about the sound of your voice. So if you really want to wrap your head – and your ears – around some of these ideas, here’s a quick three-minute video that demonstrates some of the major vocal pitfalls to avoid, and on the flip-side, strategies to help you sound like the confident, charismatic, persuasive leader you want to be.