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.
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.
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.
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:
- Indiegogo says that campaigns that use video raise 115% more money than campaigns that don’t.
- Kickstarter says that pitches with video succeed at a rate of 50% vs. 30% with no video.
- A third-party analysis of seven thousand Kickstarter campaigns showed that projects with video were 85% more likely to get funded.
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.
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.)
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.
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