Your speaking voice is one of the first things people notice about you. And while it may be unfair, an unpleasant voice can make a negative impression.
But some voice and speech coaches say it is possible to give yourself a voice makeover with easy exercises that can improve your communication with others and, ultimately, improve your confidence.
Vocal coach Linda Septien said a person's voice can be an important presentation tool, whether a person is trying to get a new job, get clients or even get a date.
"The sound of the voice dictates who you are before someone knows the inside of you," Septien said. "So the voice is the foremost presentation prior to seeing anything else, especially on the phone."
Seventeen-year-old Rebecca Whaley is an aspiring singer whose deep and sultry voice sounds great when she's singing a love song. But she said it's not so great when she's trying to have a conversation.
"I speak really low for a female, and it's monotone, so it doesn't have much inflection," she said. "A lot of times I get questions like, 'Are you OK? Is something bothering you?' Or, 'I can't read you.'"
Whaley said she wants to improve her speaking voice because she wants to launch a singing career and needs to be able to promote herself well.
Bill Fairly, who is a financial adviser in Fort Worth, hates his voice, too, and wants to keep his twang under control.
"Whenever I've heard mine, it always sounds so nasally and twangy," he said.
He said people on the phone will sometimes respond to him with a, "Yes, ma'am."
Septien said many of the same tricks singers use can help people improve their speaking voices as well, whether you have a thick accent, your voice is too high or too low or even if you speak too fast.
First record yourself, she said.
"When you record it, you'll hear it, and you'll know what to do with it from there," she said. "And you just keep recording until you get better."
That's one of the tricks she suggested Whaley try. It helps people work on clarity, enunciation and even volume and tone.
Another tip: Practice reading children's stories out loud.
"If you understand how to be sort of a DJ telling a story to a child, a lot of that will get the inflections right, and will get them to stop bearing down on sound and mumbling," Septien said.
And fast talkers who need to pace themselves should think about what they're going to say as if it were a rap song.
"If you will rap what you're about to say and think of a beat, as I'm talking, it keeps me all the way to the end just speaking in a great rhythm, and it doesn't make me want to go fast at the end," Septien said.
Septien has more tips to make your voice sound more attractive on her Web site: http://www.theseptiengroup.com/.