If you're in the process of launching a company, you've most likely dedicated time to refining your handshake, your elevator pitch, even the way you dress. But there's an aspect of your image you may have neglected: the effectiveness of your voice.
How you articulate plays a large role in how others perceive you. Your sincerity, credibility and confidence are all revealed in your speech. Here are some tips to use your voice more effectively the next time you pitch your business or give a presentation.
Slow down. When the pressure is on, we tend to speak faster. When you speak too quickly, you may stumble over your words and appear nervous. Slow your speech down to allow your audience to better understand you.
Change your position. Even if you're in a boardroom presenting to an audience of two, keep your head up. Stand up when speaking to larger groups. Project your voice and allow your body language to express your confidence (even if you don't always feel it).
Adjust your volume for the size of your audience. When I was growing up, my mother always told me to speak loudly and clearly. I didn't realize how important this was until I started giving presentations in public. Always speak loud enough for everyone in the back of the room to hear you, even when using a microphone.
Embrace your dialect. My aspirations of becoming an anchorwoman fizzled when one of my college professors told me I had to lose my Southern accent if I ever wanted to work in broadcasting. I naïvely believed him. Over time, I've learned to embrace my accent. It is a positive aspect of who I am. If you think your voice may be working against you or if others find it difficult to understand you, don't hesitate to invest in a speech coach or a few public speaking courses.
Fine-tune your pitch. Pitch describes the high or low notes you hit as you speak. Your overall pitch should be pleasant to the ear. High-pitched voices can be perceived as squeaky, whereas low-pitched voices often convey authority. Vary the pitch of your speech to strengthen your message. When you ask a question, end it in a higher pitch. Whenever you make a statement, punctuate it with a lower note. If you constantly end your statements on a high note, you may be perceived as nervous, unsure and untrustworthy.
Related: How to Be a More Charismatic Leader
Smooth your tempo. The overall rhythm of your language should be steady and confident. Increase the tempo, or pace, of your speech to convey action or excitement. Slow down purposefully to emphasize a word or phrase.
Pause when it's appropriate. Pause briefly before and after you make an important point or transition between ideas. By doing this, you create suspense and allow others to process your comments and fully appreciate what you're saying.
Regulate the emotion of your voice. Timbre describes your vocal attitude. Your emotion should match what you are saying and what you want your audience to feel.
As you refine your ability to effectively use your voice, you'll be able to apply it to all areas of your business life as well as your social life. It's a new skill that may take some time to master, but it will be well worth the effort.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach. She is also the author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals (St. Martin's Press, 2011) and Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin's Press, 2005).