The Master Communicator Blog

Five ways to look and sound bigger

Society has historically favored tall and deep-throated individuals as leaders and authority figures. You and I know that you are perfect just as you are, but there are some hacks you can use to look and sound a little “bigger” when you speak in public.
July 17, 2023

 

At a recent workshop, some audience members asked me how they could appear taller than they are, particularly when they pose for photos next to people who tower over them. That started me thinking about ways that attitude, mindset, energy, and vocal dynamics combined with some wardrobe styling hacks can help someone “grow” taller.

Self-acceptance is the first step to claiming your personal power. Yet the elusive qualities of charisma and executive presence benefit from aspects of personal appearance such as height and posture that are out of your control. Simply put, there is an ingrained bias towards people who are taller and have deeper voices.

Vocal tone and pitch factor greatly into perceptions of authority. The human voice is an instrument of power; and people with deeper speaking voices have had historical advantage. Even today, research shows that individuals with lower pitched voices are favored to achieve higher social rank, economic status, and influence.

Short of walking on stilts and digitally altering your voice, there are a few things you can do to think and act big when you speak in public.

1.  Adopt clothing styles that make you look taller

Wardrobe stylists recommend wearing monochromatic outfits to look taller. This means dressing in the same color, preferably darker tones, from top to bottom, including your shoes. Wearing different colors divides a person’s body into separate segments. The same color or tones that are within the same range create one solid vertical line that lengthens your appearance. This applies to everyone: opt for attire in a single color for a cohesive look and the illusion of an elongated frame. Fashion experts also recommend well-tailored garments with the proper sleeve and pant lengths. Avoid anything baggy, or, conversely, anything that fit you two sizes ago.

2.  Improve your posture

Stand up straight, shoulders back, chest slightly puffed out. An expansive posture will let more air into your lungs and help you speak more energetically and deeper. With good posture, you will take up more space and exude confidence. Sit up straight, too. Keep your shoulders from slouching—particularly on video calls.  You can look bigger if you frame yourself at waist level and fill more of the available area in your shot. This has multiple benefits such as allowing you to use your hands to convey more meaning and emphasize your ideas.

3. Tap the lower register of your voice

A deep, projectable voice is desirable in the speaking arena because it can command a room. Gender stereotypes aside, deeper voices carry more gravitas. Before the age of microphones, orators were lauded for their pitch, timbre, and resonance.

Men naturally tend to have lower voices than women because of the effects of testosterone on the body and the vocal cords. But vocal capacity can be developed with practice, as actors are trained to do.

To make your voice sound deeper, breathe through your belly. Diaphragmatic breathing helps you access a deeper pitch. This breathing style, which has significant health benefits as well,  brings your diaphragm to its lowest position, which helps slow down vocal cord frequency and achieve lower tones.

4. Pose for photos next to someone your size

Standing next to someone much taller than you will accentuate the height difference. Why not avoid standing side-by-side with a giant?  If you are posing for a group photo, take a few seconds to shuffle near someone closer to your own height and mitigate the appearance of being “vertically challenged.” 

5. Ask for a step stool at the podium

I have seen far too many short people step to the podium microphone and forget to crane the neck to the level of their mouths. When the mic is at your forehead not only can’t you be heard properly, but you will look awkward in the video. Take a moment to adjust the stationary mic to a comfortable place just below your nose. 

When you are asked to speak at a podium, anticipate that the standard height of 46 to 48 inches may be good for other speakers but not ideal for you. Consider that the mic sits above the surface of the lectern part and adds to the overall height.  

Some podiums have discreet built-in step stools to adjust for height differences, but in the absence of one, it pays to request that the tech production team get one for you in advance. In the worst-case scenario, ask for a hand-held mic and stand to the side of the podium in full view of the audience.

Executive presence is shaped by your ability to communicate with clarity and consistency, confident body language, eye contact, appropriate facial expressions, as well as a professional appearance. You can play with wardrobe styling, posture, make your voice deeper, and practice other techniques to look and sound bigger.  But at the end of the day, it’s your mindset, attitude, confidence, talent, and intelligence that will make you as big as you want to be.

Rosemary Ravinal

Business leaders and entrepreneurs who want to elevate their public speaking impact, executive presence, and media interview skills come to me for personalized attention and measurable results. I am recognized as America’s Premier Bilingual Public Speaking Coach after decades as a corporate spokesperson and media personality in the U.S. mainstream, Hispanic and Latin American markets. My company’s services are available for individuals, teams, in-person and online, and in English and Spanish in South Florida and elsewhere.

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