One of the most powerful skills for Executive Presence is what we call “the voice of certainty” — created when you use a warm downward inflection, dropping your pitch at the end of each phrase or sentence, combined with a positive tone and/or a soft smile to warm it up.

Watch the 4 minute video below to hear what we mean.

The warm downward inflection is one of the most powerful Executive Presence skills. That’s the good news. The possibly bad news is that, for those who have a tendency to use its opposite —upward inflection (sometimes called upspeak or uptalk) — it can be one of the most difficult to master.

It’s a two-part road to mastery. First, map in the downward inflection. Then practice warming it up by doing it with a soft smile.

Practice tips to map in the downward inflection — drop the pitch of your voice on all the sounds in bold below.

  • To learn how to feel the difference between upward and downward inflection, try saying famous lines from movies and speeches with upward and then downward inflection:
    • “My name is Bond? James Bond” vs “My name is Bond. James Bond.”
    • “I have a dream? vs “I have a dream.”
    • “You had me at hello? vs “You had me at hello.”
  • Use downward inflection every time you state your phone number or credit card number, eg “My phone number is 512-280-1380” or “My credit card number is 5555-1234-5678-8910
  • End all your questions with a downward inflection. For ex, ask “What do you want for lunch?” Listen for whether your voice went up or down on the word “lunch”. If it went up, add a tag on, making sure your last word is at a lower pitch, for ex “Interested in pizza or a sandwich?”
  • When you’re able to easily do the downward inflection, add a soft smile to the exercises.

You want to get enough practice so that it becomes second nature to you. Practice at 100% so that, in pressure situations, you’re using the warm downward inflection at least 60 – 80% of the time. That’s all it takes to convey competence, confidence, and certainty.