I get a lot of compliments on my voice. People tell me it sounds warm and inviting, authoritative but not imposing. They say I have a voice for radio (hopefully that doesn’t mean I have a face for radio, too). As a matter of fact, I used to host a couple radio shows in college. So, I suppose I have some advice to offer about how to make your voice sound better.
Personally, though, I can’t stand the sound of my own voice. I cringe every time I hear a recording of it. I wonder if even someone like Viola Davis or Sam Elliott feels the same way about the million-dollar-worthy sounds that come out of their mouth. After all, humans seem to have a natural inclination to dislike our own voices.
There lies the first step to making your voice sound better: remember that it doesn’t sound as bad as you think. You’re the harshest critic of your own voice. Other people almost certainly like it more than you do, assuming they think about it at all (which they probably don’t).
But maybe acceptance doesn’t cut it for you. Maybe you’re interested in polishing those pipes; in making your voice sound more attractive, more commanding, more persuasive. Maybe you lead tons of meetings, give presentations often, need to record professional-sounding voiceover, or find yourself in conversations thinking,
I wish this person was paying more attention to me.
Whatever the case, you’re here to learn how to make your voice sound better. And as a virtual receptionist company—a team of vocal experts who converse, comfort, and convince all day—we here at Ruby are happy to help.
Let’s get to it. Feel free to read this article top to bottom, or jump to a tip using the table of contents below.
Table of Contents
Why does the sound of your voice matter?
Your voice is like your physical appearance or, um, your odor: it’s intrinsic to other people’s immediate sensory perceptions of you. It’s a core element of who you are and how others experience your existence. Before people hear what you say, they hear how you say it.
And your voice might not just be a reflection of you. If you run a business, your voice is your business’s voice. It’s the voice people hear when they call your company, or the voice your team members may emulate when representing your brand.
As the leader of your business, you use your voice to:
- Make decisions
- Convert callers into buyers
- Create trust with existing and potential customers or clients
- Communicate expectations
- Provide feedback
- Exude positive energy
- Teach others
…And so much more.
In short, the quality of your voice helps you communicate more effectively. No surprise there. But unfortunately, we’re not all born with the same vocal faculties. While some people possess powerful speaking voices with little training, others need to learn, practice, and overcome ingrained speaking habits to get there.
Developing a "business voice"
If you engage in public speaking events, interviews, videos, or podcasts, your voice quality is especially important to the success of your marketing, sales, and awareness efforts. It’s one reason many business leaders develop a business voice (not a brand voice, although the two can be related)—a different voice than the one they use at home.
Here are a few more reasons why you might want your voice to sound different in a business setting:
- Sound more professional.
- Protect your vocal cords (if you do a lot of talking).
- Project your voice better in meetings and presentations.
- Attract attention.
- Exude confidence.
- Be heard more clearly.
So, how do you develop that voice?
Before we jump into tips and tricks for improving your voice, remember that what makes for a good voice is truly, truly subjective. Everyone’s voice is different. Your speaking voice is your voice. These tips are meant to help you feel proud of that voice, own it, and make the most of it.
Alright, enough preamble. Here are some practical ways to make your voice sound better:
Tips for making your voice sound better
1. Get to know your voice by listening to recordings of yourself.
Again, keep in mind it’s normal to dislike the sound of your own voice. The way a voice sounds in the speaker’s ear is always different from the way a recording picks up that voice—it’s a consequence of biology.
To improve the sound of your voice, you’ll need to face the displeasure head-on and listen to a recording (or several) of yourself. What you’ll hear will likely surprise or upset you. You might grimace and feel the need to turn off the recording.
Don’t turn it off. Keep listening. Listen all the way through. Then listen to it again. And again. Play it until you get used to it, until you can lip-sync to yourself.
We’re talking about exposure therapy, and it’s the only way to get over the aversion of listening to your own voice—which is the first step to understanding, and thereby improving, your voice. (It helps to keep your mind occupied while you do this, so you’re not focusing entirely on how uncomfortable you feel. Talk a walk, clean your bathroom, or do a crossword puzzle.)
I have personal experience here. I’ve had to record voiceover for videos and then listen to those recordings for hours as I edited the videos together. Many content creators have dealt with the same agony. It’s a trial by pitchy, awkward, voice-cracking fire, but after the first few listening rounds, you get used to it. And that’s when you can start hearing your voice from a more objective position.
2. Note what you do and don’t like about your voice.
Once you’ve become inured to the sound of your own voice, start thinking about what you do well and where you feel you could improve.
Take note of your tone and delivery. What emotions does your voice convey? How understandable are you?
A few qualities to listen for when listening to your voice:
- Your enunciation: Do you finish all of your words and pronounce all of your letter sounds?
- Your speaking tempo: Do you talk too fast or too slow?
- What happens when you try to project your voice: Does your voice falter or suddenly transition to a higher or lower vocal register? This could be a sign you’re not using the right muscles to speak, and you should practice speaking from your diaphragm.
- Your auditory tone: Is your voice high, low, or in the middle? Does it change and fluctuate as you speak? Is it even, all over the place, or—dare I say—monotone?
- Your emotional tone: Does the pitch of your voice match the content of your words? Does it seem authentic? Do you sound friendly, cheery, and upbeat? How about fearful and unsure? Or angry, or overconfident, or sarcastic?
To broaden your understanding even further, play the recording at different speeds, such as 1.25x and 0.75x, and evaluate whether the same tone and vocal phenomena come through. Play it quietly and loudly. The most effective voices are comprehensible and emotionally resonant at different speeds and volumes.
3. Slow down and speak deliberately.
Many of us—particularly those of us sensitive about our voices—tend to speak too quickly. This only makes us feel more self-conscious, however, and hinders others’ understanding of and engagement with what we’re trying to say.
If you’re not sure if you talk too fast, pay attention to other people’s reactions. If people ask you to repeat yourself often, you might need to slow down.
In any case, anyone who wants to make their voice sound better can improve by practicing speaking slower. Slowing down helps you breathe deeply, enunciate, and more thoughtfully consider what you’re trying to say.
Note that “slow” doesn’t mean plodding and tedious,
t a l k i n g l i k e t h i s or liiiike thiiiiiisss. Think of it as talking deliberately, using the sound and rhythm of language to communicate better.
As a matter of fact, one powerful—and fun—way to practice enunciation and modulation is to learn a hip-hop verse and rap along to it. (I like the old-school jams, myself.) You’ll find that a typical verse is carefully constructed and delivered—it forces you to use all of your mouth muscles and enunciate all your words and letter sounds.
Try taking these four lines for a spin—go ahead, say them out loud:
Feels a little like a workout, doesn’t it? Like any form of exercise, it can hard at first, but eventually you’ll build up endurance and deliberate speaking will come more automatically, especially in professional contexts.
4. Drink water.
As if you needed another reason to hydrate, water keeps your throat and vocal cords nice and lubricated. That means a smoother sound and easier speaking experience. Make sure to eat well and keep your electrolytes up, too, for maximum energy and endurance.
5. Be mindful of your body.
Your voice arises from your entire body, not just your mouth or throat. I’m talking about your diaphragm, your stomach, your spine, your nose, and—perhaps most importantly—your brain. Be mindful of your posture, breathing, eating habits, and emotional state, as all factors influence how your voice sounds.
To optimize the sound of your voice through physical means, do the following:
- Breathe from your diaphragm. Breathing more deeply while speaking can help you protect your vocal cords from strain and embody a richer, more consistent speaking tone. An easy way to practice breathing from your diaphragm is to practice breathing from your belly rather than your chest or nose. The trick is to try and not to move your chest muscles too much while breathing.
- Sit or stand up straight. Poor posture affects your voice in numerous ways, such as putting strain on your larynx and throat muscles, constricting your jaw, and causing breathing difficulties that reduce your vocal endurance. Engaging your core, extending your neck, and relaxing your shoulders can fix posture-related speaking problems—and make you feel (and sound) more confident.
- Think about what you ingest. What you eat, drink, and breathe in matters. Smoking can negatively affect your voice, and believe it or not, so can digestive problems such as acid reflux. According to WebMD: “Stomach acid can irritate your vocal cords, throat, and esophagus. This leads to a hoarse voice, wheezing, and too much mucus in your throat.”
Record yourself speaking normally (“Hi, my name is…”), then record yourself saying the same words with a big smile (think 😃 big, not 🤡 big) on your face. Listen to the recordings back-to-back. Notice anything? Your smile comes through in how your voice sounds!
Remember that you have to use muscles to use your voice, and exerting those muscles too hard can lead to injuries. Take breaks and don’t overdo it.
6. Listen carefully to other voices you like.
Where better to get some inspiration for creating your business voice than to listen to your favorite voices?
Podcasts, books on tape, and even TikTok are great opportunities to listen to and learn from people using their professional voices. Listen to how Phoebe Judge says,
“this is Criminal,” or how an audiobook narrator says, “Call me Ishmael.” People stretch, twist, clip, raise, and lower their voices, often in unexpected ways.
Music is bursting with examples, too. You probably can’t match Freddie Mercury’s vocal chops (and if you can, you probably aren’t reading this article), but listen to his choices: when he decides to belt versus when he sings softly and intimately. That kind of control is a skill anyone can practice and master.
Try mimicking the voices you like. Work on an impression or two—push your voice to take on a tone, volume, or accent you normally wouldn’t use. Have fun with it. You’ll start adding new devices to your vocal toolbelt.
7. Invest in high-quality equipment.
The equipment you use to make your voice heard makes a serious difference. From your phone to your computer microphone, the devices picking up your voice can vary significantly in terms of quality.
If you engage in video meetings, phone calls, or record yourself for social media, having high-quality equipment will make your voice sound better to your customers. Spending a bit of extra money on audio equipment for your business will help you project the most professional voice possible.
If you spend a lot of time on the road, make sure you have a working cell phone and earbuds or a headset with a decent microphone, so nobody misses anything you say during your calls.
8. Warm up your mouth and vocal cords.
Professional actors and vocal artists practice those silly phrases for a reason. Warm-ups are an essential step in speaking well and sounding good. You spend hours preparing for an important meeting or presentation, so don’t let a tired, squeaky voice ruin the show.
Give yourself a few minutes to warm up your voice before getting to your appointment. Singing in the car on your way to work is a great way to accomplish voice warm-ups and reduce those pre-meeting jitters simultaneously. Don’t forget to remind yourself of all of the voice tips you’ve been practicing.
9. Practice your timing.
There are a lot of things going on in your head during a public speaking event. Wait time, or adding pauses to what you’re saying, can help you and your listeners whether you’re in a small five-person meeting or presenting to a larger group. Pausing between ideas can help you slow down your train of thought and help others process what you’re saying.
Well-placed breaks can also help you add to your presentation. Pausing in the middle of a sentence can help you emphasize what you are about to say by getting people’s attention. During your practice sessions, play around with pauses while speaking and see how it feels. Just be sure not to wait too much. Overusing any of these techniques might make you sound robotic or inauthentic.
10. Ask for help and feedback.
If you find that you’re struggling with your speaking voice, there is nothing wrong with enlisting the help of a voice coach. Just because you aren’t a paid actor or singer doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from training.
A voice coach can give you actionable tips and practice sessions to help you create the perfect business voice. (And who knows, those lessons could also give you an edge the next time you join your friends for karaoke night.)
Speaking of friends, your friends and family are also great resources you can turn to when creating your business voice. If you have any teachers or parents in your inner circle, ask them how they developed their “teacher voice” or “parent voice.” You might be surprised to find that teachers and parents both work to create a voice that gives them authority and allows them to project without yelling. Don’t be afraid to ask people for feedback, as well!
11. Be kind to yourself.
This is the most important step. You can practice and hone your voice, but you can’t fundamentally transform who you are or what you sound like. Nor should you. Your voice is part of what makes you, you.
Remind yourself you’re worthy of love. Your voice, however “imperfect,” is beautiful. Try to let go of your insecurities and step into your voice from a place of kindness and curiosity.
Keep in mind that you’re not trying to change your voice completely. Instead, think of it as improving your natural speaking voice to help you communicate more effectively. The bottom line here is you are looking for a way to communicate better and be heard more clearly in a business context. Fortunately, you don’t need the speaking voice of James Earl Jones or Meryl Streep to accomplish that.
After you’ve keyed in on some ways to improve your voice, make sure you re-record yourself after practicing. Hearing your voice improve with practice can go a long way in boosting your self-confidence.
Finally, remember that listening is the most important skill you can have when communicating with a customer, client, employee, or any audience member. People don’t really care what you sound like—but they do care about being heard.