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Public Speaking Confidence & Competence: The Influence of Vocal Image

Insights from the SEBOC 3-Day Virtual Experience

*To hear the original recording of "Public Speaking Confidence & Competence" during the SEBOC 3-Day Virtual Experience, check out Ep. 164 of the WorkCookie podcast here.

Your voice, or "vocal image," reflects your identity, influencing how others perceive you. A polished vocal image enhances confidence and professional opportunities. Unlocking the potential of your speaking voice is an investment in yourself.

Although our voice feels intrinsic to who we are, with effort and awareness, it can be modified and refined. How we speak can be very relevant to the level of effectiveness and the listeners' cognitive and emotional responses.

Here are five ways to improve the sound and clarity of your speaking voice:

Speed of Speech: Aim for a 'conversational pace' of 145 to 175 words per minute (wpm) for optimal listener comprehension. For technical topics, speaking below 145 wpm is acceptable. For lighter content like jokes, 175 wpm is ideal. Rates over 200 wpm can overwhelm listeners, causing loss of focus and attention within 2-3 minutes.

Try this exercise: Read a 150-word passage multiple times until fluent. Then time yourself. It would be best if you were around the 1-minute mark.

Pausing and Phrasing: Just as musicians leverage pauses to elevate a melody's emotional impact, speakers can vary pause lengths to highlight their message's gravitas. Treat speech like music, using pauses for emphasis. A 3-beat system—a quick one-beat for punctuation, two-beat for importance, and a dramatic three-beat for key revelations—enhances clarity and holds the audience’s attention.

Volume: The widespread use of microphones has caused many to lose the ability to naturally project their voice, leading to reduced vocal strength. The foundation of good vocal projection lies in effective breath control (Sataloff et al., 2007). Deep breathing techniques can enhance vocal power and create a deeper emotional resonance with your content.

Try this exercise: Lay on the floor with a book on your stomach. Notice how it rises with deep breaths. Strive for this feeling while standing.

Tone: We have a broad vocal range but often restrict it. Tone conveys emotions: high pitches suggest excitement, while deeper tones signal seriousness. Varying pitch adds clarity and avoids monotony, keeping listeners engaged (Rodero, 2015).

Articulation: Aim for clarity in communication without losing your unique voice. Proper articulation ensures understanding and boosts vocal image. Prioritize clear articulation to enhance understanding while maintaining your unique vocal image.

Your vocal image is more than just words; it mirrors your character and emotions. It is shaped by tone, pitch, pace, volume, clarity, and regional accents. Like how appearance influences perceptions, your voice can convey confidence, excitement, doubt, and more. Excelling in public speaking boosts professional growth, credibility, and reputation. Communication is about more than words; it is how you say them.

By: Yvonne Opute

BRIDGE Builder - The Bridgify Group

*To hear the original recording of "Public Speaking Confidence & Competence" during the SEBOC 3-Day Virtual Experience, check out Ep. 164 of the WorkCookie podcast here.


Rodero, E. (2015). The principle of distinctive and contrastive coherence of prosody in radio news: an analysis of perception and recognition. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 39, 79–92. doi: 10.1007/s10919-014-0201-5

Sataloff, R. T., Heman-Ackah, Y. D., & Hawkshaw, M. J. (2007). Clinical anatomy and physiology of the voice. Otolaryngologic Clinics of North America, 40(5), 909-929.

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