My natural speaking volume is on the louder end of the spectrum. In in-person conversations visual cues, even just seeing the other people, help me to regulate it, though I can still mess up when I'm not paying enough attention. (Lifelong struggle here.) And on a phone call with one other person I can match my volume to what I hear, and use the volume control on the speaker to set that at a good volume. My problem is with group conference calls.

I was just in a call with two other people where one was much quieter than the other (a not-uncommon problem). My speakers only have one volume setting, so for to hear the one at all the other was loud. I didn't realize until afterwards, but I was matching the loud person's volume, which meant I was bothering a coworker who sits near the conference room. Because the other people didn't have video, I couldn't make use of visual cues and the quiet person never said "hey, could you tone it down?" to either of us.

What techniques can I use to keep my own speaking volume at a reasonable level regardless of the variations in volumes among other speakers on a call? I'd like to prevent the problem, not apologize to coworkers for it later.

I'm aware of this question, but I think the phone aspect (and attendant lack of visual cues) is an important difference. Also, before you ask, my hearing's fine.

2 Answers 2


There are two approaches you can pursue: the personal and the technological.

The personal approach would be to ask your colleagues whether the volume was an issue, and explain as you have here the difficulty you have in assessing your own volume. Generally people are glad to have someone else broach the subject if there is a workplace problem. An appeal for input to help you judge is likely to be met sympathetically and help diffuse any tension. Alternatively, since you seem to be talking about situations where you are physically isolated from other people and not using video conferencing, there would seem to be no restriction on you using some form of external metering of your volume.

There are a variety of both free and paid for smart phone decibel meter apps available. If you use a smartphone, you could experiment with the app to see what readings you get in situations where you are confident that your volume is acceptable, and use that as a benchmark for your volume in telephone conference situations.

A combination of approaches would allow you to benchmark at what volume your voice in the conference room becomes an issue for your colleague at her desk.


I've had this problem literally since birth, born hearing impaired and autistic.

One thing that helped me was to practice by holding a balloon close to my mouth while speaking. You can actually feel the balloon vibrate when you get louder.

The way this works is you record yourself, and start by deliberately speaking loudly while holding the balloon, then more softly and then when you get to the level where you want to be. Then you keep practicing with the balloon once you get the volume at the right level.

If you have a private office, you can even use the balloon while on a conference call (if on speaker). I found this worked well for me, as I haven't had complaints about my volume for years.

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