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098: Our Voice

🤔 Do you like your voice? 🧠 The Way You Sound 🖼 Four Microphones 👉 Audio Gear

Jason Shen
Jason Shen
6 min read
098: Our Voice
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Cultivating Resilience is a newsletter that helps innovators navigate change and bring new product and ideas into world. It's published by Jason Shen, a resilience coach, product manager, 1st gen immigrant, ex-gymnast, and 3x startup founder.

🤔 Do you like your voice?

How much do you think about your voice? Do you like it? Are you trying to change it?

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Reply back to this email with your response and I'll send you mine!

🧠 The Way You Sound

Two people are in a room, announcing a major change to the organization. One of them has a voice that's deep, resonant, firm, speaking full sentences with a downwards inflection at the end. The other's voice is higher, has a bit of an accent, and speaks haltingly, starting and stopping midsentence.

Which person do you expect to have more influence in the organization in six months?

It's unfair to judge people by the way they sound, just as it's wrong to judge them for how they look. And yet the taller presidential candidate wins 67% of the time. Overweight people are considered to have less leadership potential.

W e are social mammals. These assessments are ingrained and to some degree, innate. I used to cringe when I heard my voice in a recording. "Is that what I really sound like?" This is not an uncommon scenario. The voice we hear when we speak is deeper and more resonant because the sound vibrates through your skin, oral cavities, and skull before reaching your ear drums.

Most of us need to use our voice regularly to communicate, persuade, and negotiate with others. As a PM, speaking is at least a quarter of my impact. As a coach, it might be closer to a third. And of course, as a speaker, it's more than half.

Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos infamy dramatically lowered her voice when she founded Theranos. And while her fradulent misrepresentation of what her company could do was incredibly problematic, I don't fault her for trying to present a more authoratative presence.

When I am speaking in a high leverage situation, whether in a product review or with a client, I deliberately try to speak at a lower register. One way to help train at the lower register is to hum for 30 seconds to a minute before you start a presentation, going to the lowest possible place you can while still vibrating your voice box. In terms of volume, I am mildly hard of hearing so I naturally project if only to hear myself clearly. I see my voice as part of a communication toolkit, along with well-designed slides, a structured narrative, and clear message.

The other reason why we don't like the way we sound in recordings is that the recording itself is also a lie. You only sound as good as the microphone (and speaker on the other end). In order to present the best possible audio experience, I've also invested in a more professional microphone set up. In the video below, you can hear what my voice sounds like when using various microphone options and check out the gear I recommend and use myself.

I've been off the market for a while but even dating apps are starting to recognize the power of voice. Hinge now includes voice prompts as a way for people to get to know each other. The Washington Post reports that the company saw voice as another way for people to get a sense of chemistry with one another.

"If you find yourself turned off after hearing someone’s voice, that’s just a natural, biological response, says Logan Ury, director of relationship science at Hinge. “People can either experience that love at first listen or that ‘ick factor,’ ” Ury says. “And we’re just bringing that information to them faster.”

I know my voice can become an even stronger asset for me. I have started trying to enunciate better, moving my lips more expressively when saying words, and noticing how speakers I admire place emphasis on certain words or pause for effect. In an audiobook I recently listened to, I noticed how the narrator always distinctly enunciated the hard constants in the last word of a sentence.

You're going to have your voice for the rest of your life, why not make the most of it?


🖼 Four Microphones

In which I narrate the above newsletter text using four microphones: the Logitech Streamcam (which is doing my video), Airpods Pro (which had some connection issues), the V-MODA BoomPro (the one on the headset) and the Blue Yeti (it's righg below me so you can't see it).


👉 Audio Gear

So here's a picture of my own set up, and here's how you can get the gear that I recommend. I may earn a small commission from any purchases you make.

V-MODA BoomPro

High quality detachable microphone for working from home.

As you can tell from the video, the V-MODA actually sounds really good (even better than I realized) and I think this is your best bet for a cheap reliable good mic option. 

Buy on Amazon for $29.99

Philips SHP9500 HiFi Precision Stereo Over-Ear Headphones

Lightweight, comfortable, open back headphones with Mic jack

To use the V-MODA BoomPro, you'll need a set of headphones that accepts this kind of input jack and I recommend a pair of open back headphones that are lightweight and comfortable (and let you hear yourself so you don't talk too loud)

Buy on Amazon for $74.99

Blue Yeti Nano

Compact condenser USB microphone with rich audio.

But you have a bit more flexibility with the Blue Yeti / a USB condenser mic and can move away from sneezes and coughs and for that extra level of richness. I have a Blue Yeti original before the Nano came out but the quality actually is equivalent (to my amateur ears).

Buy on Amazon for $69.99

Elgato Wave Mic Arm LP

A low profile adjustable microphone arm to swing your mic in and out of your way.

This helps you preseve desk space and lets you adjust it to where you're sitting and lets you move away when you sneeze.

Buy on elgato.com for $99.99

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095: My Journey into Resilience
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More Resources and Fun Stuff

  • Book Notes: Summaries / quotes from great books I've read
  • Scotch & Bean: a webcomic about work, friendship, and wellness
  • Birthday Lessons: Ideas, questions, and principles I've picked up over the years
  • Career Spotlight: A deep dive into my journey as an athlete, PM, founder, and creator.
Newsletter

Jason Shen

Human(e) technologist on a mission to help build resilient teams and organizations. Former NCAA gymnast and three-time startup founder.