I Hate the Way I Sound on Recordings

In my work with hundreds of clients, including professional speakers such as actors and radio announcers, I have met only a handful who like the sound of their own voice on a recording. Some people even refuse to leave a voice mail message, knowing there would be a permanent record of their “awful voice floating around in the world.” Many speakers are certain that recordings distort their voice.

I don’t want to ruin your day, but the voice you hear on playback is probably the closest to the real you that you’ll ever hear. That is because the recording ‘hears’ you as others do, through sound waves projecting into the air. When you listen to your own voice while speaking, you hear vibrations within your skull along with the vibrations in the air. That’s why the voice you hear on recordings is never like the one you’re used to. A good goal for developing a pleasant and influential sound is to stop cringing every time you hear yourself and make peace with your unique voice.

So the next time you hear yourself on a recording:

  1. Step back and ask: Do I sound bad or just different from the way I thought I would?
  2. Notice at least one good point about the way you sound (e.g. It is loud enough; the pronunciation is clear ; I sound easy going).
  3. Pick a specific way you would like to improve (I would like my voice to be softer, less whiny, deeper).

Tip: Try to describe (“I was a little too soft”) rather than judge what you hear (“I sound like Minnie Mouse.”)

If you are truly adventurous, you can improve your speaking voice and perhaps even like how you sound, by bugging yourself ten minutes a day. Record yourself speaking on the telephone or bring a record/playback app with you to important speaking events.

Play back the ten-minute segments, listening to and evaluating how you sound and noting changes that occur with different people and situations. When I play back recordings for my clients, I hear my own voice as well, so I now know exactly what to do to sound good when recorded – and in real life.

After fifteen to thirty recording sessions, you’ll develop a neutral attitude toward the sound of your voice and be able to be more analytical about its positive and negative aspects. And from then on you’ll see an audio recorder simply is a tool, not as torture.

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