How To: The Power of a Winning Voice

How to hit the right notes when speaking. 

By Eve Cappello, Ph.D., DTM

“In today’s high-tech world of sound, no other means of communication surpasses the human voice,” says Dr. Morton Cooper, author of Change Your Voice, Change Your Life. “Twenty-five percent of all Americans use a voice too low in their throats and 50 percent use a voice too high, nasal and thin... They often go through life unheard and unappreciated.”

Your voice is crucial in achieving success as a speaker. As a professional speech coach, I’d like to offer some valuable techniques I teach my clients – techniques you can practice for just five minutes a day to make your voice healthy and strong, and give your speeches more pizzazz.

What does your voice say about you? Do you sound confident? Credible? Even if you know your subject and dress appropriately, your voice can turn off an audience. Here’s a simple test you can use to practice different voice sounds using the word hello. Look at yourself in the mirror and say “hello” in an angry voice, then a happy voice, then a sad voice.

Notice the different sounds. Is your voice usually too high or too low? To bring out your best voice, it is important to move in the right direction. Knowing which direction to go is the key to finding your winning voice. Practice these techniques to build a credible and confident voice that commands audience attention:

  • Close your lips and hum “Happy Birthday.” You should be able to feel a vibration around your nose and mouth. That area is known as the “mask.”
  • Repeat the words “zim, zim” to help you find your mask area.
  • Read a newspaper or magazine aloud, but hum the words. The buzz or tingle in your mask area will tell you if you are using your voice correctly.
  • Repeat slowly: “Really one. Really two. Really three.” Control your sound by repeating both the word “really” and the number in the same tone of voice.

To find your winning voice, it’s important that you practice breathing properly. Your breath – when duly controlled – adds quality to your voice. Practice this control by inhaling slowly through your nose as you inflate your stomach. Think of inflating a balloon while breathing in. Now say the word “hello” while exhaling. Think of the balloon deflating and pull in your stomach as you speak. Notice how the sound comes out fuller.

Breathing in this way is the opposite of the way we normally breathe. It takes a little practice before you can master the technique so it isn’t obvious when you speak. Taking the occasional breath like this when you’re at the lectern can help you overcome nervousness and project a winning voice. Singers and speakers use this deep-breathing exercise to overcome stage fright, reduce stress and begin a song or speech confidently.

Putting Pizzazz in Your Voice
Before you begin your next presentation, take a controlled, deep breath and give your first comment on the exhale. Your voice will come out fuller and richer – you’ll project energy and enthusiasm. When you project these qualities, your audience is excited to hear what you say.

Imagine this scene: You step up to the lectern. You’re dressed for success. You know exactly what you are going to talk about. But you’re still nervous. As a result, your voice may falter or maybe you mumble or say too many ahs and ums. What can you do?

Face your audience and think about using the techniques you have practiced. Take the kind of controlled, deep breath you’ve been preparing and open with your first sentence on the exhale. Concentrate on what you have to do, not on how you feel. With concentration, your voice will come out stronger and you will sound more confident. Enjoy the power of a winning voice – it’s awesome!

Eve Cappello, Ph.D., DTM, is a speech coach and author of eight books. She has more than 40 years of experience in voice projection – as a professional singer as well as motivational speaker. Reach her at