Have you ever listened to a recording or your own voice?

woman with her ear to a mobile phone

When was the last time you listened to a recording of your own voice after giving a presentation?

Presenting aside, have you ever listened to a recording of your own voice?

If you have, how did it make you feel?

If you were your audience, could you listen to you?

Here at Mindful Presenter I have never met anyone who likes the idea of listening to their own voice. Many people say they have never really done it or even thought about it.

The vast majority say quite emphatically, ‘I hate listening to my own voice’. I don’t mind telling you that despite the fact that I’m a public speaking coach and trainer, I also don’t like the sound of my own voice on a recording.

Isn’t it interesting, that many of us don’t give too much thought about imposing our voice on colleagues or clients, yet have no real idea of how we sound to them.

How do we sound?

– Do we speak too fast?

– Is there any flexibility in our pitch, pace, tone or volume?

– If we want our audience to feel excited or inspired, do we sound it vocally?

– Do we say, err, uhm, obviously, like, or so a lot?

– Are we being ourselves or have we adopted the corporate spokesperson voice?

– Is the way we speak congruent with the words we use and the way we feel?

Could you listen to your own voice?

In my experience, it’s not something most of us have given too much thought to.

After all, surely our audience hear exactly what we hear in our own minds, so what’s the point of listening to a recording?

We know exactly what we sound like don’t we, why would an audio recording be any different?

I thought I sounded like Michael Bublé

I like to sing at home.

In the shower, whilst cooking and listening to the radio; you know, that sort of thing.

In my head I’ve long been quite convinced that I sound just like Michael Bublé. My wife and son assure me that I’m mistaken. In fact, they share the same view as an old primary school teacher who caused me a little trauma some 50 years ago when she told me that my singing voice sounded like a bullfrog.

It seems I never quite got over that.

We don’t hear what others hear

I remember reading about this quite some time ago in a short BBC article where the author stated:

‘What makes a recording of our voice sound so different… and awful? It’s because when you speak you hear your own voice in two different ways. Greg Foot explains all.

The first is through vibrating sound waves hitting your ear drum, the way other people hear your voice. The second way is through vibrations inside your skull set off by your vocal chords. Those vibrations travel up through your bony skull and again set the ear drum vibrating. However as they travel through the bone they spread out and lower in pitch, giving you a false sense of bass. Then when you hear a recording of your voice, it sounds distinctly higher.’

The accompanying video makes it even easier to understand:

I quite like the way Dr Silke Paulmann, a psychologist at the University of Essex, puts it in an article in the Guardian:

I would speculate that the fact that we sound more high-pitched than what we think we should leads us to cringe as it doesn’t meet our internal expectations; our voice plays a massive role in forming our identity and I guess no one likes to realise that you’re not really who you think you are.

There are plenty of articles on the internet about the physiological and psychological nature of how and why our own voice sounds different on a recording.

Whilst it’ worth understanding both sides of this, from a public speaking and presenting perspective there’s another important element to consider.

What about our listeners

Understanding the way we sound and the impact our voice has on others, especially when presenting to an audience is worth knowing too.

It isn’t something that only actors or singers should concern themselves with.

In the absence of knowing exactly how we sound through the ears of others, we could be doing them a disservice. In this case, ignorance is not bliss.

When we are speaking in a work context, presenting data, facts and insights it very easy to speak in a way that is more monotone and less engaging than we may like.

At Mindful Presenter we encourage people to invest a little time trying to understand their own voice before sharing it with others.

If we don’t, how will we ever know whether we:

– Speak too fast

– Have vocal energy and contrast in our pitch, pace, tone and volume

– Actually sound the way we want our audience to feel

– Say, err, uhm, obviously, like, or so a lot

– Are speaking authentically

Take some time to listen to a recording of your own voice

When you do so, please don’t try to change your voice.

Your voice is a gift; it is an extremly important and precious part of you. Just be mindful of it’s impact.

Please don’t try to sound like Michael Bublé, the late Steve Jobs, Michelle Obama or whoever your favourite speaker is.

Authenticity is critical, especially in public speaking and presenting.

This isn’t an article about changing your voice, it’s one about understanding it. A key part of mindfullness in the way that we work is having a high level of awareness about what’s helping us and hindering us.

That includes our voice

‘The human voice is the most beautiful instrument of all, but it is the most difficult to play.’ Richard Strauss

If you’d like to learn more about how to improve your public speaking voice, take a moment to read these 5 tips.

You may also want to:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

Image courtesy of Canva.com


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  • Sandra Zimmer
    Posted on 25th May 2023 at 3:51 pm

    I so agree that it’s important to be mindful of your voice and the impact it has on others. Why discourage people from improving their voice? Why not suggest they consider speaking voice training? There are three aspects of vocal training that can be taught and learned to develop your best possible speaking voice. They are vocal tone or resonance, good diction and proper pronunciation of vowels. If your voice is important in your work, consider getting some training. The human voice is the most powerful tool for communication that humans possess.

    • Maurice Decastro
      Posted on 25th May 2023 at 4:28 pm

      Thank you for reading the article and sharing your thoughts Sandra,I appreciate it.

      The purpose of the article was to encourage people to listen to their own voice with a view to understanding how it may be helping or hindering them. In doing so, if they find something they’d like to improve which could be more helpful to them I’m encouraging them to do so.

      My point is, it has to start somewhere and I believe a good place to do so is to have the courage and mindfulness to listen to our own voice.

      The article does say,

      ‘At Mindful Presenter we encourage people to invest a little time trying to understand their own voice before sharing it with others.’

      I also close by offering some tips: ‘If you’d like to learn more about how to improve your public speaking voice, take a moment to read these 5 tips.’

      That said, I definitely don’t encourage people to change their voice in the context of trying to sound like someone they are not or perhaps their favour speaker.

      I meet very few people who need or would benefit from significant vocal training unless of course there is a very specific issue or challenge. On the rare occasion they do I try to support them and point them in the right direction.That said, we do a little vocal work in our workshops but it’s all designed to stretch, challenge, flex and own our voice, rather than changing it.

      That is something I would actively discourage in the sense that I’ve described.

      Mindful presenting is all about improving ourselves as speakers and the impact we have on fellow human beings.

      I do hope this clarifies our perspective on this very important issue. Best wishes, Maurice


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