Silicon Valley fraudster Elizabeth Holmes has been accused of many things: peddling bad science, bilking investors — and faking a deep, baritone voice to sound more impressive.
Some professionals wonder why that last bit, as played up in HBO’s recent Holmes documentary, “The Inventor,” is such a big deal.
“I was like, ‘Who cares?’ ” says Jenna Payne, a 34-year-old filmmaker who says she was teased as a child for her “annoying” high-pitched squawk. “Who doesn’t talk differently depending on who they’re talking to?”
The former New Yorker says she started deepening her voice in college, inspired by the late French star Jeanne Moreau’s sultry purr. “I don’t even know what my voice would sound like normally anymore,” she tells The Post. “I’ve been doing it so long that it’s automatic.”
Faking one’s voice highlights an important, if controversial, point: The way a person talks actually matters. A 2013 study, published in the biology journal Animal Behavior, revealed that people consistently rate low voices as more “dominant” than high ones, particularly when the speaker and listener are of the same gender. Margaret Thatcher famously altered her pitch with the help of a speech coach as a part of her transition from stay-at-home mother to Iron Lady.
Paul Geiger, a Manhattan-based vocal coach who specializes in training clients to accomplish more in business settings, says that anyone can make their voice more persuasive: It’s just about learning the right tricks.
Geiger suggests that “manipulating” your voice to be much deeper isn’t the best place to start. “You have a certain pocket where your voice lives,” says the author of “Better Business Speech: Techniques and Shortcuts for Public Speaking at Work.” Straying too far from it, he adds, just makes you sound odd.
What you can do, he says, is train yourself to slow down. “The biggest tripwire for most people is just speaking too quickly and not varying the rhythm of their sound,” he says.
He says it’s relatively easy to make your voice sound richer by practicing deep breathing and other vocal exercises. “What we’re really going for is to relax the throat and vocal cords,” he says, “and therefore [create] as large an acoustic environment as possible, which will allow the sound to have the most resonance.”
This kind of training made a huge difference for Yuji Shimizu, an auditor at an international accounting firm who moved from Japan to Weehawken, NJ, in 2011.
Shimizu, now 44, felt pretty comfortable speaking English, so he was surprised when he noticed that Americans reacted strangely when he talked. “I found people spoke very loud, especially at bars and restaurants,” he says. “I had a very hard time having conversations with my colleagues, and even with my friends in these kinds of places. When I tried to call the waiter or waitress, they didn’t notice me.”
After a few years of being Mr. Invisible, Shimizu got fed up with his soft, raspy voice and sought professional help.
With the guidance of a vocal coach, he worked on breathing from his diaphragm and speaking from his belly to project more effectively. In a matter of months, he started noticing changes: His clients were more respectful, and his boss told him that it was easier to hear him over the phone. “Once, when I ordered food in a restaurant, my friends told me that somebody behind me turned around, because my voice was so loud!” he says, laughing.
Shimizu says that finding his voice has been life-changing. “I feel more confident and comfortable,” he says. “It’s one of the best lessons I have ever learned.”