Last week I sat up the back of a rehearsal of speakers in a science oratory contest. I was struck by how relatively much harder it was for the light voices of the young female contestants to project authority in a large lecture theatre. Microphones helped but didn’t remove the disparity.
Despite the light voices evident, female voices are deepening. In the US the average female voice deepened by 23 hertz from 1945 to 1993. 23 hertz is about a semitone in music. Don’t ask me how they know this! It is thought that pitch deepening has coincided with women having to be more authoritative to advance in a career. There is also interesting evidence that as our bodies get larger, our vocal cords lengthen and thus our voices deepen.
Why do we invest so much authority in a deeper voice? One obvious reason is that deeper pitches are easier to hear, so a deep voice will project across other people talking. The evolutionary psychologists, who have a view on everything these days, believe that a deep voice signals more testosterone and thus more dominance!
There are plenty of tips available on how to deepen your voice. Take care that you don’t strain your vocal cords, but improvements in your breathing technique can make a big difference. There are some good simple techniques in Tips on Talking.
Some psychological barriers to a stronger voice are connected with the value we place on what we have to say and how we feel about risking disagreement. If your voice is too quiet or too high, think carefully about your self-perception when speaking. If you value your message, you will speak up more strongly. If you prepare well so you are ready to handle disagreement, you will state your views more confidently.
Use the Four Ps:
- Posture: Push your shoulders back, so your lungs can expand and so you can feel confident
- Pronounce the whole of each word, so each syllable is articulated clearly. This will create a stronger message
- Pace yourself, so you are speaking more slowly and giving yourself time to breathe
- Pinpoint someone in the audience who is quite a distance away. Imagine you are speaking directly to them
Good luck with the husky voice, it can bring all sorts of benefits.