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power points

We are becoming used to wearing masks. Many of us are trying to compensate by using our eyes, as well as our hands, to convey mood and expression. But what about your now-muffled voice?

“The quality of your voice makes a big difference in how people respond emotionally to what you say, and this is true in both personal and professional interactions,” Dustin York, an associate professor and director of undergraduate and graduate communications at St. Louis-based Maryville University, writes on Harvard Business Review’s website.

“Even if we say the exact same things but in different tones, people will respond differently. When we wear masks, our voices must play an even bigger role than usual.”

He brings together research on voice effectiveness to help you practise your mask voice. It’s summed up in the acronym PAVE, to highlight the four key elements:

  • Pause: Normally, visual cues of the mouth help us to see when a speaker is pausing for a response. With that gone, you need to make a conscious effort to noticeably pause on occasion to give people opportunities to jump in or respond. This will also break your message into digestible chunks and, if you have trouble breathing with a mask, give you a chance to take in air.
  • Accentuate: He urges you to avoid monotony by accentuating key phrases and information. But don’t always do it in the same pattern; use different intonation.
  • Volume: Since masks muffle your voice, make sure you speak up without shouting.
  • Emotion: When appropriate, make your voice more expressive to convey positive emotions such as excitement, gratitude and sympathy. “Do this in moderation since you don’t want to come across as if you’re performing Shakespeare,” he says.

Former actor and speaking coach Gary Genard stresses the importance of cultivating your breath to project the fullness of your sound, making you more leader-like. You need more oxygen to project sound outward and this will come from the belly. “Equally important, you have to unlearn the habit of breathing shallowly,” he notes.

If that’s not enough, he advises you to keep in mind that the most important words in English usually come at the end of the phrase. So you need enough breath to punch out the idea or image embodied in those words.

How to write a cold e-mail

Sriram Krishnan, a tech product leader and angel investor, believes in the power of cold e-mails since they have opened many doors for him. Over time he has learned that powerful, wealthy and interesting people read their own e-mail, are good at responding and are very curious. So you can get their attention and make a connection as long as you keep in mind they have very little time. Anything with friction in it – confusion or complications, for example – will get shifted to the “later” bucket.

On his blog, he says the perfect cold e-mail is:

  • Short and grabs attention. It explains itself clearly in just a couple of paragraphs. Any more is friction.
  • Very clear on who you are and why you are worth paying attention to. You can demonstrate credibility through your past roles and places you have worked or show off your body of work by linking to a paper you wrote or a product you developed.
  • Of value. Demonstrate there is something in you and your message that’s valuable for them. Don’t be too general. Provide ideas for their companies or a thoughtful response to something they wrote or said.
  • Actionable. Has a specific ask that is easy for the recipient to do, ideally in seconds. He points out “a generic ‘help me with advice’ is really hard” for them to react to.

So with that advice, take a shot at it.

Quick hits

  • Facing a phone interview for a job? Writer Ashley Jones reminds you to make sure your device is charged. Also, consider using headphones so your hands are free to flip through your résumé or notes.
  • And to look like a leader in interviews, Fairygodboss associate editor Liv McConnell recommends at some point asking, “What are the biggest challenges the team is facing currently, and what are the most significant opportunities?”
  • Consultant Greg McKeown advises you to open your calendar and find every empty time slot you have over the next few weeks. Reserve them for time to talk, think, explore, relax and dream.
  • Consultant Wally Bock says the first basic question in decision-making is: “Why is a decision needed?” The next question is, “What’s the deadline?” Third: “Who should make this decision?”
  • Every year you have 365 opportunities to start again, leadership coach Dan Rockwell says.

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