Voice Skills

by Judy Apps

How to sound more authoritative

When you sound more authoritative, you will find that others listen far more readily to what you have to say.

Authority comes from

  • A deeper voice
  • Stronger emphasis (see the page on Emphasis)
  • Voice tone which lowers firmly at the end of a sentence
  • Confident, articulate flow.

A deeper voice

Many public speakers have studied to acquire a lower voice. How do they do that?

1. Use more pharyngeal resonance

After coaching, UK Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher, became particularly adept at speaking in a deep pharyngeal voice. This makes an instant difference to the voice. However, you can usually detect artificiality in the sound.

The adjustment is achieved by dropping the jaw and pressing it against the larynx. If you imagine that you are gargling marbles and speaking at the same time, you will get a good approximation. One exercise used to strengthen the effect consists of a robust recitation of Ghaa! Khaa! Ghaa! in the back of the throat.

2. Use more chest resonance

The resonance of the chest produces a clear, confident, adult sound that has the ring of authority about it. Most non-professional speakers would benefit from developing this aspect of their voice. Find out how to do so under Resonance.

3. Relax, and allow your whole body to be part of the action

Stand in a relaxed way, balancing evenly on both feet, and feel your contact with the ground. Allow yourself to stand tall, while releasing your shoulders, neck, jaw and facial muscles, as well as every other part of your body. Imagine yourself speaking from your body rather than from your head.

Lower the voice tone firmly at the end of a sentence

The ends of sentences are particularly important if you wish to sound authoritative. There are two pitfalls to avoid.

The rising inflection

As a general rule, the falling tone at the end of a sentence is used for statements and commands, and indicates completeness of thought. The rising tone indicates incompleteness, and is used in all types of questions. If you use the rising tone at the end of a sentence that isn’t a question, you will sound as if you are almost questioning your own statement and have no confidence in what you are saying. The downward inflection sounds firm, as if you mean business.

There are certain accents that tend towards upward inflection at the end of a sentence, Australian being one.

Tailing off

If your voice tails off at the end of a sentence, either from lack of breath or from uncertainty, you will sound as if you lack confidence in what you are saying.

The remedy is to learn to breathe (Breathing), and to make sure that you end each sentence firmly and on a low pitch.

The truth is that we respond more to intonation patterns than to meaning. The same thing can be said in one voice – the Voice of Authority – and we believe it; but say it in another voice, and we do not believe it.

Confident, articulate flow

You have more time than you think!

On those occasions when we are suddenly asked to speak, time can play some strange tricks on us. A couple of seconds of silence can seem like a few minutes – even an hour or two. We might feel as if we need to plunge into words before we have even formulated an idea in our heads.

But we don’t have to...

We have plenty of time. And will appear more confident if we take it.

Take the time to think of a whole sentence before you utter your first word. Then take a good breath before you begin.

You need breath to sound confident

Some people have a hesitant stuttering delivery, not due to any particular speech impediment, but because they take such inadequate breaths that they must constantly stop and start, change tack and interject little asides, just to cover their lack of air.

If you want to sound confident, you need to be able to speak long phrases as well as short ones.

Practise speaking long phrases in a loud energetic way. It will build up your ability to breathe well. Proclaiming Shakespeare is a great way to do this. Imagine you are a great actor – Sir Lawrence Olivier, Judy Dench, Ian McKellan – whoever is your favourite. Use a declaiming style and put lots of vital energy into your performance. Try the following quotes to get you started; take one breath for each paragraph and read in a strong measured pace. You might find the phrases long at first, but with practice it gets easier.


Romans, countrymen, and lovers! hear me for my cause, and be silent, that you may hear:

believe me for mine honour, and have respect to mine honour, that you may believe:

censure me in your wisdom, and awake your senses, that you may the better judge.

If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of Caesar’s, to him I say, that Brutus’ love to Caesar was no less than his.

If then that friend demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:

Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.

To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them?

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death.

Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow;

a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more:

it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

When the hurlyburly’s done, When the battle’s lost and won.

After Shakespeare, you can try speaking from a presentation speech of your own, or from other business material, putting the same amount of energy into it.

How can I sound more confident?

The obvious answer is: feel more confident. Your voice will always reflect your state of mind to a certain extent.

The master golfer, Jack Nicklaus, visualises the success of each shot before he makes it, and you can do something similar. Visualise yourself speaking confidently and with inner energy. Visualise the good reception you will receive. See and hear yourself doing a really confident job, and then step into the image so that you are looking out of your own eyes and get the great feeling of speaking with confidence.

There’s also much you can do to help yourself on a physiological level. All the suggestions on this page will be useful. Stand well balanced, feeling your connection with the floor – see Posture. Breathe and relax your shoulders. Use chest resonance and the other lower resonators – see Resonance. Vary your voice.