Voice image secrets 

What's the quality of your speaking voice telling other people?

How is your vocal image?

Do you really know how others hear you?

And do you know what they think or feel about you, as a result of listening to your voice?

Their response is your voice image.

Woman with a loud speaker

Your voice has an instant impact

It's well known that how we dress and present ourselves has an almost instant impact on the people we meet. In some situations, for example, job interviews, work presentations and special social occasions, that impact is critical.

We are judged on our appearance and those initial judgments form the basis of how we are perceived. At a job interview a crumpled shirt, scruffy trousers and scuffed shoes say to a prospective employer: 'I don't care enough to make an effort.'

What's less well known is that voice or voice quality has a similar impact.

The secret

Voice image is the 'secret' of people who use their voices professionally. Actors, radio broadcasters, television presenters, politicians, tele-marketers, professional speakers, all of whom depend on the impression their voice makes for success, know its importance.

What you do with your voice, how you speak, matters.

A negative voice image

In your mind summon up the sound of a voice making you want to put your fingers in your ears because hearing it is painful.

What are its qualities?

  • Is it nasal as if the speaker had a peg on their nose?
  • Does the speaker squeak?
    The voice uses the upper/high registers continually.
  • The voice is monotonous. It drones on and, on and, on with little variation of pace or pitch.
  • The speaker mumbles and the words blur into one another without distinction.
  • It is too loud regardless of circumstance. The voice overwhelms its hearers.
  • Is there a constant rising inflection at the end of each sentence? This makes you mentally answer everything you hear and question whether the speaker is sure of themselves.
  • Is there a difficulty with some of the letter sounds? For example, 'S' or 'R' or any other single, double or multiple letter combination.
  • Is it shrill?
    The speaker has hard piercing tones like that of a concrete cutter.
  • Is it sing-song?
    The speaker swings through a habitual up-down pitch range
    regardless of subject matter.
  • The speaker is hesitant. The words are held back and arrive timidly.
  • Does it race? The speaker gabbles at break neck speed.
  • It is too quiet as if it's embarrassed to be heard.
  • Is the accent so broad it swamps clear communication?
  • Is the breath held for too long so the speech sounds strangled or tight?

What personality traits have you attributed to the speaker because of how their voice sounded to you?

Have you decided they are:

  • shy
  • lacking in self-esteem
  • lazy
  • careless
  • arrogant (too loud for too long)
  • over-anxious or nervy (motor-mouth)
  • boring
  • lacking intelligence
  • a complainer or whinger
  • easily influenced
  • incapable of leadership
  • indecisive
  • immature
  • and more...

A positive voice image

Let's focus now on a voice that you love listening to.

What are its qualities?

  • Does it sound natural, relaxed and free?
  • Is it varied and flexible?
    The pace, pitch, tone, and volume shift organically without effort in harmony with what the subject.

What personality traits do you automatically assume about the speaker?

Would you say they are more likely to be confident, authoritative, understanding, independent, attentive, interesting, energetic, dynamic, mindful of others, warm, caring, respectful...

And now listen to yourself

The easiest and most effective way to do this is to record yourself.

Merely listening to yourself inside your own head won't give you the clear feedback you need.

There can be a vast difference between what we think we sound like and what we actually do. I know because I've experienced it. Hearing myself on tape let me know exactly what I sounded like and where I needed to put the effort in.

Ideally what you want is a 1 - 2 minute sample of your normal speaking voice - the voice you'd use naturally without self-consciousness.

Play back the clip and listen as objectively as possible to what you hear.

If you were somebody else, what would you think about the speaker?

What aspects of delivery do you need to focus on if you want a confident dynamic voice image?

Voice image ...

... is a collective package made up of equal parts of breath control, articulation, volume, pitch, tone, pausing and speaking rate.

A great voice image is strong in all of them.

Breath control 

This is essential for flexible voice production. If you are holding your breath or breathing from the top of your lungs the quality of your voice will reflect that. You'll find some useful breathing exercises here. They are the same ones for reducing anxiety. In doing them you'll receive a double benefit - a better voice and lowered tension.


This is how you say your words. Are they clear? Are the endings as well as the beginnings audible? If you mumble or drop off starts and finishes of words, you'll find these old-fashioned tongue twisters useful as well as fun.

Proper pronunciation

This is knowing 'how' to say a word. It is different from articulation in that you can mispronounce words but still be speaking clearly!

You'll find some commonly mispronounced words & phrases on this page on proper pronunciation as well as a useful link to a larger list of frequently muddled words.

Volume, pitch and tone

These aspects cover how loud or quiet your voice is, as well as the range it travels through (high to low), and its quality. Collectively it's called vocal variety.

Click the link for exercises to develop flexibility in all three aspects of vocal variety.


A pause in the right place for the right length of time gives your speech emphasis and definition. Silence can speak louder than words.

Check out these exercises on how to make effective use of pausing

Speaking rate

This refers to the speed your words come out of your mouth. Depending on the context, speaking either too fast or too slowly can be a problem.

Click the link to find exercises to help you achieve a variable and appropriate speaking rate.

For more help

If you need more than is available here (for instance, help with modifying a strong accent or a stubborn stammer), do seek professional advice. You'll find qualified voice coaches or speech therapists in your local area. 

Or if you'd like to better your vocal image in the company of others dedicated to improving their public speaking, try Toastmasters International.

Toastmaster clubs are all over the world. There's bound to be one near you. Check on the website link above.

If you speak in any way professionally, please do not ignore voice image.
It may not be talked about openly in the same way that dress or body language is but it is equally important. Your voice can either aid or hinder successful communication.  Make it work for you.

"It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him."
George Bernard Shaw, 1856 – 1950, playwright, socialist and critic.