I love vocal coaching.
However, I must admit that vocal coaching within the advice profession has been a challenge.
Everyone wants their voice to sound great, and wants to make an impact. People are keen that their voice should come across as relaxed, confident, authoritative, trustworthy, engaging - insert more positive adjectives as appropriate.
At the outset, I often hear comments like:
“I want to use pitch and tone to engage my audiences.”
“I want a deeper voice so that I can command more authority.”
“I want to sound like…..” a particular public figure with a good voice.
Fantastic. So much enthusiasm for voice.
Discovering the full potential of your voice is an incredible experience. It can deliver much more confidence and make a huge impact.
Your voice is central to how you connect with people, every day. Through vocal coaching, we're giving you a tool to make you more compelling to clients and colleagues, more able to build trust and influence and get you feeling great in the process.
Where wariness creeps in
Yet when we get onto the practical voice work, the reticence and scepticism build. It’s rarely what people expect.
The comments then go along the lines of: “I just want some quick tips and tricks to make my voice louder or deeper or less monotone.”
But it’s rather more complicated than that. There often isn’t a quick fix.
We were all born with voices that work perfectly. As babies, we screamed all day without getting hoarse.
It’s the stress of life that causes us to tense up. This tension stops us using our voices at their full capacity. That’s why so much of vocal coaching is about tension release.
We’re re-discovering how to use our voices as we did as children. After years of being serious grown-ups, reconnecting with a childish sense of freedom can be disconcerting. People - especially advisers - feel silly.
Breaking unhelpful 'grown-up' vocal habits can take a lot of work. Bucking the trend to 'grow back down' isn’t easy.
You don’t sound like Beyonce overnight just like you don’t get a six-pack overnight. We don’t call it The Speakers’ Gym™ for nothing. It takes work, discipline, skill and control.
What we find is some clients fall at the first hurdle because the exercises just make them feel too uncomfortable. Or to their mind, the exercises just seem too left field, silly or childish.
Yes, the exercises are playful, and can seem a little unusual. But the reasons we use them are deadly serious and very 'grown-up.'
The exercises are intended at releasing tension and reconnecting with your most relaxed, confident and engaged self. Yet it so often feels like we’re inflicting something incredibly painful on our clients. The intention is the exact opposite.
What has happened for spending a little time relaxing to have become such an ordeal? Surely this is a worrying state of affairs.
If you want the rewards, then you may have to go to unchartered waters and places that initially seem uncomfortable or tangential to the goal.
However, it’s 100 per cent our job to make the work palatable, manageable and realistically applicable to our varied audiences - you.
The challenge is while people understand and see the link between warm-up exercises and sport, the same anatomical understanding is not there for the voice.
A hamstring stretch is just as tangential to playing football as a spine roll or any other breathing exercise is to delivering a speech or presentation. But people 'get' stretching. It’s accepted.
Here’s a basic anatomical understanding of our voice. With this, I hope to build a simple, logical connection between the vocal exercises we use and the end result of how we sound.
Breath powers the voice
When we speak, air from the lungs flows through the 'vocal folds' which close over the larynx (in the throat) in preparation to make sound. The vocal folds vibrate to create sound.
The initial sound sets the air in the throat and the mouth into sympathetic vibration, which is called resonance. The rest of the body also resonates to amplify the sound. You can see your whole body as your stereo speaker.
The support muscles (back, abs, intercostals, obliques) gently engage to extend the exhalation process and ensure a smooth flow of air over the vocal folds, lengthening and strengthening the sound.
The muscles in the face and mouth engage to shape our sound/articulate, and make sense.
Why is releasing tension so important?
The more tension we can release all over the body, the deeper the breath can drop into the lungs, the more resonant our voices will be, and the easier we’ll find it to articulate.
I hope this whistle-stop understanding of your voice goes some way to explaining the nature of vocal work.
Our vocal conditioning course delves into this in greater depth, and equips you with simple, practical exercises to hone your voice and connect with clients at your best.
We live in a world that demands quick results. But any great skill requires consistent application and is not acquired overnight. Once it is acquired, it still needs maintenance and work.
If you’re looking to communicate as effectively as possible, your voice is an essential tool to expressing yourself.
We continue to develop our techniques. We continue to innovate. If it doesn’t sing for you, then we haven’t done our job.