5 Easy vocal tips to get your message across: "IT'S NOT WHAT YOU SAY, IT'S HOW YOU SAY IT!"

The speech messages you deliver in words are accompanied by vocal messages. The manner in which the words are spoken often makes the message clear and understandable. The vocal tones which accompany words may affect the acceptance the listener has of the message.

For example, because your voice is an audible representation of your physical and emotional state, the vocal tones may reinforce positively the words you speak. Or the tone may send a conflicting, negative, message. Think of how these words would sound if spoken in tired, unenthusiastic tones:

“Yes, it is a great opportunity with a lot of growth potential.”

Would you believe the words or the vocal message sent by that voice?

In contrast, the same words spoken in a vibrant, clear, enthusiastic manner will be enhanced by the sound of your voice. The sound of the voice – the music behind the words – frequently conveys the meaning. Our voices provide additional meaning to the words we speak. We add a vocal message to the verbal message.

There are five vocal aspects which accompany the verbal message and affect how the words you say with your voice are perceived. These are:
1. Pitch
2. Rate
3. Volume (or Intensity)
4. Quality
5. Enunciation.

Together they affect your voice and your verbal message.

1. Pitch is the highness or lowness of the sound of the voice. People tend to respond favorably to relaxed, controlled, well-pitched (neither too high nor too low) voices. Tension and stress affects your pitch – the more stress and tension the higher your voice. So relax! But don’t stay at one pitch – monotone is boring – let your voice rise and fall in varied patterns of pitch like it does in normal conversation; when you show some excitement or happiness and even concern. If you are reading from a script often your voice will flatten out and become monotonous in pitch. The secret for improvement is to make reading sound like conversation – create the music behind the words!

2. Rate is the speed and timing in which the words and sounds are spoken. Each person has a normal rate of speaking which is adjusted to various situations. Some people think and speak slowly. Others use a rapid overall rate. It is important that the timing of spoken words are consistent with the message delivered and with the listeners for whom the message is designed. Remember, words are not encoded one by one; but spoken in phrases – groups of sounds – separated by pauses of different lengths. Some phrases spill out rapidly, others move crisply. Some sounds are drawn out and the whole group of sounds is delivered slowly. This variety is easy to listen to and variation in rate and timing helps you express meaning. You do this naturally and beautifully in ordinary conversation. You can carry this over to recruiting with some practice.

3. Volume or intensity is the loudness and softness with which words are spoken. It is annoying to be unable to hear a speaker through the telephone or across a table. An effective voice should be as loud as the occasion demands. Not all phrases are delivered with the same intensity because they would tend to sound the same. Some words or ideas are spoken with greater force or intensity; some with less. This contrast keeps the listener’s attention. Variety in volume is very desirable in recruiting. Dropping to a quieter tone, building to an intense climax, or emphasizing important ideas (by saying them louder or pausing before or after them) creates listener interest.

4. Quality is those characteristics of a voice which make it unique to the individual. Can you answer a telephone and identify a client or candidate by voice alone? Can you even identify the mood of the person by the sound of the voice? The same is true for you. Your physical condition, your vocal mechanism, your feelings and emotions and the way your voice resonates give you a unique vocal quality. If you are careful to use your resonators (throat, nose, and mouth) openly and let your tones be relaxed and pleasing, your voice will add positive dividends to your marketing and recruiting calls.

5. Enunciation is the clarity which the sounds are produced – how clearly you pronounce or articulate the words. Pronunciation is the acceptable sound of the words and Articulation is using the intricate adjustments of organs in the mouth that changes the voice sounds into intelligible sounds. The primary organs used are: lips, tongue, jaw, teeth, hard palate (hard roof of the mouth) and soft palate (soft, back roof of the mouth). When vocal sounds are slurred or faulty it is difficult to understand the message. Consonants that supply crispness and punch are lost. Vowels that add richness and melody are distorted.

Try listening to your voice recorded. Do you like the way you sound? Does the resonance seem balanced and rich? Or does it sound thin and flat? With practice you can improve your voice quality and become a great speaker.

Views: 1008

Comment by Valentino Martinez on January 1, 2012 at 5:20am

I can only partially agree with your statement:  “It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say it!”

I happen to believe that it is both “what you say” and “how you say it” that makes a candidate an effective communicator and a good hire prospect.  Your detailed advice on how to be cognizant of certain “vocal aspects” that can become speech shortcomings if they are not leveraged in a positive way are on point and very helpful.

However, what value does good diction, tone and inflection have on a recruiter or hiring manager who discovers a great communicator in a job candidate but one who is also sorely lacking in the required and preferred skills, experience and education they seek?

I coach recruiters to be especially observant of polished interviewees who have a gift for communication but may lack true depth in the education, skills, experience and accomplishments sought for the job and work place in question.

Comment by Cora Mae Lengeman on January 2, 2012 at 2:06pm

I totally agree Valentino, both what you say and how you say it are important. But you missed the point of this blog.


My point in this blog is - as shown at the beginning - that you can say one sentence in different ways and achieve different results. If recruiters, candidates and hiring managers are using a tired, unenthusiastic voice and are not understood when discussing anything; there is certainly a lack of communication skills happening. A preferred candidate will be put off by the lack of interest shown in the "way it was said" and not even hear "what was said".  Even more uninterested if they didn’t understand a word that was mumbled.


Any recruiter or hiring manager that is fooled by a good communicator and unable to discern the skills required and preferred by asking the correct questions and moving the conversation in the right direction has more than a communication problem - and this blog will not help them. They simply don't know how to do their job when screening candidates.


This blog wasn't written for candidates or even hiring managers - it was written to help recruiters (especially those who actually call people on the telephone) - improve their delivery and not sound robotic.


I like that you included both candidates and hiring managers in the discussion and also believe they should know how to express themselves to be able to get their point across but it is the responsibility of the recruiter and the hiring manager to probe the candidate to make sure they have the required and preferred skills.


Thanks for your comments and bringing the candidates and hiring managers into the mix.

Comment by Valentino Martinez on January 2, 2012 at 4:59pm

Cora Mae,

I’m not diminishing the value and importance of how you say something.  I complimented your input on that note. I’m just saying you cannot divorce what you say from how you say something.  Doing so can put you on a slippery slope if the content doesn’t measure up with the delivery.  Both work in concert to be effective.   

Comment by Cora Mae Lengeman on January 2, 2012 at 10:08pm


I totally agree with your comments.  You need to use both content and delivery together.  I wrote this post concentrating only on the delivery - content would take several posts, on several topics and would end up being a training book!  

Thanks again for your comments.


Comment by Valentino Martinez on January 3, 2012 at 12:25pm

We're cool, Cora Mae,

Delivery is crucial.  And a good one magnifies the value of the content.

Thought about you, and this discussion, when I noticed this movie trailer showing now on two great Ladies in my book...enjoy...


Comment by Cora Mae Lengeman on January 3, 2012 at 6:28pm

I knew we were cool - I wasn't offended at all.  I love the movie trailer and it fit right in!

Comment by Valentino Martinez on January 4, 2012 at 12:15pm

@Cora Mae,

While I've emphatically stated my position earlier and stand by those comments--I must concede to your premise that "IT'S NOT WHAT YOU SAY, IT'S HOW YOU SAY IT", based on a fundamental dynamic that you shared but I dismissed which is the immediacy of the TURN-OFF FACTOR.

The following comment I lifted from an article on personal branding said it loud and clear and reminded me of knowledge that has always been out there which is:

“Studies show that in the first 30 seconds of meeting you, people base their impression of you on this:

55%    What they see
38%    How you speak
7%      What you say”


So, I must reluctantly concede, with some exceptions, e.g., the Thatcher/Streep movie clip example I provided and patient & good listeners, that HOW YOU SAY something will open one's ear and attention to WHAT you have to say--or close it before you get it said.  Generally speaking, particularly in this fast-food, instant texting nation--you have approx. a 30 second (or less) threshold to impress or depress a listener with WHAT you have to say.

So, Cora Mae—kudos to you on a good bit of advice on HOW to make WHAT matter.

Comment by Cora Mae Lengeman on January 4, 2012 at 12:38pm

The "55% What they see" is also very true for face-to-face meetings.

Comment by Valentino Martinez on January 4, 2012 at 1:43pm

Yes, fortunately and unfortunately, the "image factor" can dominate the final decision. But that's the subject for a another discussion.

Comment by Cora Mae Lengeman on January 5, 2012 at 10:29am

I wasn't thinking image as much as non-verbal communication. 

Unfortunately image is considered incorrectly - a great accountant shouldn't be judged by their image; but by their work.  You're right, totally another discussion.


Best wishes for continued success!


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