One Small Change That Makes You Seem Smarter and More Competent


Do you like the sound of your voice? Most people don’t. And, if asked to create a persuasive argument, they would probably opt to write it rather than speak it. That would be a mistake.

A new study from Chicago’s Booth School of Business shows that the same information presented in spoken form created a better impression of the speaker.

The researchers, Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder, had MBA students entering the job market create both written and videotaped pitches to introduce themselves. Evaluators either read the written pitch, listened to the audio portion of the recorded pitch, or watched the video with the audio.

The study found that the sound of the candidate speaking made a big difference in how the candidate was perceived:

The evaluators who heard the pitch subsequently rated the candidate as more intelligent, thoughtful and competent than the evaluators who only read a transcript of the pitch… evaluators who heard the pitch reported liking the candidate more and reported being significantly more likely to hire that person…

Even professional recruiters (who recruit candidates from Chicago Booth) were more likely to hire the candidates whose pitches they could hear than those whose pitches they read.

The video with audio and audio-only results were not far apart, with video conferring a small advantage. Both formats outperformed written text by a wide margin.

Voice vs. written

Written pitches and transcripts of spoken pitches also performed about equally poorly, compared to audio. This indicates the wording was less of a factor than the medium.

Having an actor read the pitch worked as well as the audio of the individual delivering it.

While this work specifically focused on evaluating job candidates, it’s reasonable to assume that the same thing would happen in other situations involving first-time contacts. Initial sales contacts, for example, have a lot in common with job interviews.

The Voice Effect

The neuromarketing takeaway is simple: you should take advantage of the voice effect. If you are pitching someone who doesn’t know you, do so in a way that includes your voice. A telephone call or in-person visit should create a better impression, on average, than an email.

When you can’t interact in real time, as on a website, a video will be better than a written-only pitch. An audio-only pitch would also do well, but video is a more common medium these days. The scenarios in the study all used recorded content.

First Impressions

The study was based on the evaluation of previously unknown job candidates, so the voice effect appears to influence first impressions. If two people are acquainted, it seems likely that the voice effect would be less pronounced.
Study: Hearing your voice makes you seem smarter, more credible. Click To Tweet
Even a small improvement in one’s first impression can be important to the ongoing relationship. As I described in my Forbes piece, First Impressions: Incredibly Quick To Form, Slow To Change, the viewer’s initial take can stick for a long time, even when contradicted by additional evidence.

So, if your first impression is “smart and competent,” you may get hurt less by a mistake later in the process than an individual whose intelligence wasn’t established.

trust and faces

If you are using video, note the importance of facial appearance described in the article. That might influence your choice of spokesperson!

Evidence from Crowdfunding

There’s plenty of evidence that adding a video to written content performs better. One need only look to the crowdfunding space:

Of course, one can’t attribute all of the difference in crowdfunding performance to the voice effect. No doubt seeing a product demonstration or other visual material adds credibility. Nevertheless, these results are consistent with the Chicago study which also used video and, in some cases, an actor to read the content.

The impressive difference in crowdfunding success suggests that whatever you are pitching, exploiting the voice effect with a recorded video will help.

Videos Increase Conversion Rates

Conversion rate optimizers run a far greater number experiments than university researchers, and there seems to be a consensus that in most cases a video on a landing page will increase conversions.

Visual Website Optimizer reports that changing a static photo of a gardening expert to a short video of her increased conversions by 13% when accompanying the same text. Eyeview Digital, a video firm, lists case studies showing lifts from 15% to 85% from added video. And the Marketing Tech Blog reports a 130% boost in one video experiment.
Videos that include your voice may increase #sales and #conversion. #CRO Click To Tweet
Of course, individual case studies don’t mean a technique will always work. Experiments that produce inconclusive or negative results are much less likely to get reported. (That’s particularly true if a company that offers video services is doing the reporting!) And, as every conversion expert points out, there are no sure-fire “best practices” – nothing works every single time.

Launch-time Lift-off

Another indication of the power of audio and video is the launch strategy used by thousands of internet marketers, Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula. (In book form, it’s Launch: An Internet Millionaire’s Secret Formula To Sell Almost Anything Online, Build A Business You Love, And Live The Life Of Your Dreams.)

product launch formula - 3 videos

A key part of the strategy outlined by Walker is a series of free credibility-boosting videos, usually three in number, that potential customers view before being offered the actual product in yet another video.

These videos almost always feature the entrepreneur teaching viewers about a topic related to the product. This serves both as a teaser for the product itself and an opportunity for the presenter to build credibility and trust with viewers.

As in the crowdfunding and landing page scenarios, the voice effect may be only part of the reason video boosts results. Regardless, the strategy has been shown to work countless times.

Listen Up!

Use the voice effect to your advantage. Whether you are applying for a job, trying to sell a new customer, or seeking to increase conversions on your website, looking smarter and more credible will help you succeed. So, don’t rely on written communication alone – let your voice be heard!
Use the 'voice effect' to appear smarter and more credible. Click To Tweet

  1. Ed says

    And yet, no accompanying video for this article 🙂

    1. Roger Dooley says

      Haha, Ed, I know!! You are absolutely right. I ran out of time… but maybe I’ll do a follow-on video!

  2. Gilson says

    Maybe adding the Audio to some of the articles may be an easier way to get started.
    Personally, I would appreciate having the option to listen to the article.

    Love your podcast, guests and new perspectives. Thank you so much.


    1. Roger Dooley says

      Gilson, what do you think the best way to consume an audio version of a post is? Just add an audio file link, or set it up with a subscription model where it is (like a podcast) delivered to your player?

      1. Gilson says

        Thanks for taking the time to being here Roger. I think that adding the audio to the article with a WP audio player plugin would be a simple & effective way to deliver it at this time. Quick reward at the beginning of the article. “You want to listen to the article, just click ‘play’. ”

        Those who follow you, are likely to be subscribers of your Podcast already; where I expect a longer conversation (30+ minutes) with a guest. Your articles come with different lengths, and some will be quite short in audio format, maybe 5-7 minutes? It would, maybe, make more sense if it came in a ’round up’ format.

        For me, the most important questions are:
        “Do I want to subscribe to another Podcast? No.”
        “Do I want to have the option to consume your content (articles) in a different format? Yes.”

        Why don’t we test it? Have the audio delivered through a WP audio plugin on the page. Based on requests (a good number of it) to aggregate them, you can then create a ’round up’ based on the readership, and have it on the ‘Brainfluence’ podcast.

        It’s important to mention that creating a podcast for the articles may affect negatively the current traffic to the website. ‘Why go to the website if I can have the articles delivered to my player?” Less traffic = Less revenue from the website.

        My pleasure talking to you. Thanks for listening,


  3. Satyajit Patel says

    Thnx to share with us roger…..frm here i knw that what is the actual prblm in my life…now i’ll change…thank you once again for share this

  4. JohnRichards says

    So what you’re saying is that the average jobseeker is a much poorer writer than speaker? Good to know.

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