Alastair Grant and Company: Presentations, Pitching, Business Development, Negotiation, Media Interviews, Telephone, Voice Analysis
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Voice Analysis and Coaching

The human voice can be a powerful tool for persuasion, motivation and leadership. Yet all too often, people come over instead as bland, lifeless and uninspiring. The voice speaks, the crowd sleeps! The voice encodes the speaker’s personality, yet precisely measuring and analysing the way an individual uses his voice is a difficult task and has in the past been entirely subjective.

Working with a linguistics expert at the University of Geneva, we have turned this subjective approach into a wholly objective one. Thanks to unique computer software, we are able to analyse a client’s voice and detect with precision its emotional profile. We then work with that client to improve their voice, making them sound, for example, much more persuasive, credible or competent.

How we do this

First we record voice samples on digital tape. These are analysed and the results are compared with a ‘reference’ speaker’s voice. The ‘reference’ values were compiled by analysing several hundred highly effective communicators. The resulting data give us the key areas for coaching.

Then, we coach. Coaching does not follow a standard formula, but instead a number of specifically tailored strategies can be set.

Voice analysis and coaching for business communication

Case Study

An individual before and after voice coaching.

Procedure: We recorded and analysed the voice of a male client. This was repeated 3 months later, after 3 two-hour sessions of coaching.

General data Average Values Reference
  Before After  
Mean pitch (Hz) 81.70 81.26 90-120
Mean loudness (dB) 67.96 65.96 60-65
Information output rate (syllables/sec) 3.63 4.3 4.5-5.5


Before After (3 months later)
The speaker's voice is very low in pitch (which is excellent!), it is weakly modulated, and has a good loudness level. The rate of information output is a little low which is mainly due to numerous disfluencies (e.g. "you know") which were not included in the calculation of the rate of information output. The pitch of the speaker's voice is still excellent (i.e. very low), his voice is still rather weakly modulated, but all of the other vocal parameters show excellent values. Compared with the previous analysis fluency is perfect.
Speaker's Image
The speaker's strongest point is the pleasantness of his voice which is due to low pitch and excellent voice quality. The least good trait of the speaker's image is lack of dynamism. The latter then affects nearly all the other components of the image, in particular the person's image of competence and his persuasiveness. The speaker may also appear as lacking personal involvement in the topic.
Speaker's Image
Globally, the speaker's image is almost perfect. It still lacks some dynamism, which is due to weak pitch modulation. As both pitch range and rate of delivery have greatly improved, the total persuasiveness is good.
Voice Parameters
Voice Parameters
Objectives of training in vocal delivery skills:
  1. To increase emotional involvement through increase in melodic emphasis
  2. To decrease disfluencies
Objectives of training in delivery skills:
  1. To increase melodic emphasis (only if the speaker is prepared to let his emotions be heard!)

Observations on the coaching effect

  • This person was already a decent presenter.
  • His limiting factor was his voice, especially disfluencies and lack of emotional involvement.
  • The training of his voice involved 3 two-hour individual sessions at his offices.
  • The second recording shows clear improvements in voice profile in the key areas of pitch and fluency, almost to ‘ideal’ standard (in line with the reference).
  • The speaker’s image has improved across all parameters, without the loss of the excellent initial score on pleasantness.
  • The coaching required is highly bespoke, and will only be effective if the result - as in this case - is a voice which is still natural yet much more effective.

Frequently asked questions

Q   Who was involved in setting the reference?
A   Several hundred highly respected orators and presenters. We choose the most appropriate reference model from an extensive database covering many professions. We were once asked to measure the vocal characteristics of the best broker in a brokerage company.
Q   Is it possible to score >100%?
A   Yes, as 100% is set by the reference voices. 100% is ‘ideal’ though, for example, it is possible to be too loud. There is no universally ideal voice for all situations. We have different references for different situations. A doctor’s voice speaking to a patient must be different from a salesperson’s voice speaking to a customer.
Q   Does your approach differ for presenting and dialogue?
A   Yes. We measure whether the person has a collaborative or hostile vocal style in dialogue or negotiation. We measure the degree of speech accommodation (who adapts to whom) - the concept is well known in scientific circles. Larry King’s TV interviews were analysed for the degree of accommodation. The result was that he accommodated to people he considered of higher social status than himself and he did not accommodate to those of lower social class.
Q   How long do the benefits last?
A   It depends on how keen the person is to keep the newly acquired skill alive i.e. to use it in other than business situations. It is likely that permanent improvement needs several sessions with practice in between. The techniques are so powerful that one ‘round’ can produce permanent improvements.
Q   Who does the analysis?
A   The analysis is done by an expert in vocal signal analysis who has been involved in university research for the past 20 years. She has a doctorate in psychology, and has specialised in the psycho-linguistic aspects of communication since 1998. Her research is continuously updated for the latest scientific discoveries in the field of vocal rhetoric and speaking styles, and she is a regular speaker on the conference circuit.
Q   How much coaching is required before we see and improvement?
A   It largely depends on what needs to be improved, by how much and how quickly the individual responds to the coaching. Typically between 2 and 4 1-1 sessions.
Q   Is there a particular trend in the way that businesses managers speak?
A   Here in London many speakers do not modulate their voices enough, so they sound bored and therefore less effective.
Alastair Grant & Co.
Developing Communication Skills for Business

77 Palewell Park, London, SW14 8JJ
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