Can Your Voice Make You An Extra $187,000 Per Year?

Written by Christina Mozaffari (@PMRChristina) on May 6, 2013 – 6:02 AM

We all know our voice is an important tool in communicating — and now a new study says it could also make a difference in your salary.

Your voice telegraphs not only your energy, enthusiasm, and authority but, when used properly, can also be a powerful signal that something you’re about to say or have just said is important. So can you do anything about what you actually sound like? And should you?

A study from Duke University and the University of California San Diego, reported on by the Wall Street Journal, says that answer is a resounding “yes.”

The study analyzed speech samples from 792 CEOs from the Standard and Poor’s 1500 stock index based on their vocal pitch. Researchers found that CEOs with deeper voices managed larger companies and made more money, in some cases to the tune of $187,000 more. Previous voice studies have even shown that voters preferred candidates with deeper voices.

So what does this mean for you? Well, there may not be much you can do to have a deeper voice — but there are some steps you can take to improve your vocal delivery. Here are three tips: 

  1. 1. Learn to Breathe Correctly. Take a deep breath. If your chest expands, you aren’t breathing correctly. Try it again, but as you breathe in, push your stomach out. Make sure your chest doesn’t move. Now begin talking and expending that air you’ve taken in. Your stomach should be moving in. That’s “diaphragmatic breathing,” and the benefits are enormous for the spoken word. Breathing properly makes your voice fuller, more resonant, and less nasal — and it gives you better breath control, meaning you won’t have to gasp for air as often.
  2. 2. End Your Sentences as Statements, Not Questions. Be careful to avoid vocal “upticks,” which occur when your pitch gets higher at the end of every sentence. An uptick makes you sound as if you’re seeing permission rather than making a statement — and too many of them will diminish your credibility.
  3. 3. Vary Your Volume to Suit Your Purpose. Speaking loudly adds energy and excitement to your delivery, while speaking softly increases intimacy and drama. But don’t do one or the other. Do both, choosing the right moments based on your content.

One more note about this study: It only applied to male CEOs. A separate, smaller study by Quantified Impressions released earlier this month analyzed the voices of female CEOs. Researchers found that the same pattern didn’t hold for women as it did for men, finding that “The voices of 10 top female executives are closer in pitch to the average for all women.” Instead, the study said:

“Female leaders stand out for the “vocal energy,” or variations in loudness, they use to drive home their points. An energetic voice comes across as authentic, inspiring trust.”

Christina Mozaffari is the Washington, D.C. Vice President of Phillips Media Relations. Follow her on Twitter at @PMRChristina.

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Comments (4)

  1. By Nancy Daniels, The Voice Lady:

    Brad, this is really good. However, you need to find the optimum pitch of your speaking voice as well. That is what makes for resonance; ie, a whiny, nasal, shrill voice will still be whiny, nasal and shrill — just louder with those traits. [99% of the population speaks somewhere about their optimum pitch. It may be only a 1/2 step off but that mere 1/2 step can make all the difference between a dynamic voice and one that is so-so.]

  2. By Brad Phillips:

    Great feedback, Nancy. Thank you for adding your expertise to the blog!


  3. By Ken Molay:

    “Previous voice studies have even shown that voters preferred candidates with deeper voices.” Strange, given the success of Bush elder and younger, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and especially Bill Clinton!

  4. By Brad Phillips:


    I’ll dig into the data on that study. I’m not sure the study focused only on national candidates, as opposed to some combination of local, state, and national pols.


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