In partnership with Toastmasters

Linda Coyle

Toastmasters is a great source of support for nervous speakers

Toastmasters is a great source of support for people who are nervous speakers. There are many Toastmasters clubs throughout Ireland, and I’ve had the privilege of being in touch with members from several of the Cork branches including, Bandon, West Cork, and Cork.

In this post I wanted to share how I’ve worked with people who are current or potential Toastmasters members.

  1. People who feel too overwhelmed to join toastmasters

Chatting to a president of a local Toastmasters group, she has spoken to numerous people who are so terrified of public speaking that they cannot enter the door of a Toastmasters meeting. Despite her gentle encouragement and reassurance that there would be no pressure to speak at a Toastmasters meeting, they just can’t do it. Given a barrier that feels so insurmountable, people can really benefit from working with a therapist who is trained in addressing speech anxiety…and that’s where I come in! Often the hardest part for people who suffer from speech anxiety, is to step out and get help when they are afraid, as it can feel like a ‘silly’ problem, one that you should just be able to ‘get over.’ Also, the longer speech anxiety goes on, the longer you see yourself as a person who lacks confidence at speaking, and so the harder it is to shift. So, at our initial meeting, I always celebrate the achievement of having got here, as that’s a  really big brave step in the right direction!

  1. Highly experienced and confident Toastmasters members who want to improve their vocal technique.

I have worked with clients who have taken part in numerous competitions and progressed up the levels of the Toastmasters programme. Watching their speeches is very impressive! For these people, a common reason that they come to me is to develop a more engaging voice. Perhaps their voice isn’t projecting well, or it lacks the passion that they clearly have for their topic.

Now while it can be reasonably straightforward to work on, or get help with, improving a speech, working on the voice can be more difficult. People can get a range of feedback about their voices.  They may be told that they need to speak more slowly, or speak from the diaphragm, but the reality is that while much of this advice is well intentioned, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to making lasting changes to the voice without specific support. As an example, see how long you can speak slowly simply by telling yourself to speak slowly! Also, the advice may not be accurate, or it may be missing the core issue, for example, someone holding a lot of tension in their body.

So, what I do is have a look and listen to how someone speaks.  I analyse what’s happening, what helps, and what hinders the person having a free, flexible and powerful voice. From there we start to work on practical things that will enable them to have a voice which conveys their message with the energy and passion that they seek!

 

  1. Toastmaster members who are confident at giving a speech, but are nervous about speaking in other situations.

I recall working with someone earlier this year who delivered the most amazing speech, with passion, clarity and charisma. She had used Toastmasters as tool to get her over her fear of public speaking, and boy had she done well! I sat there wondering why she had decided to come to see me! What emerged was fascinating…while she could stand in front of a large group at a Toastmasters meeting and deliver a presentation, she couldn’t sit at a meeting with colleagues and give an opinion, or answering questions about a presentation.. So, my work with her involved exploring the root of her fear of public speaking. We identified that this had stemmed from an embarrassing speaking situation when she had been a teenager at school. While her Toastmasters skills had equipped her with presenting confidently, this traumatic experience still lived in her body, and so it ‘betrayed her when she needed to speak up in other situations, particularly at work.

We explored this experience, and I helped her to connect with those scared and embarrassed feelings in her body, and by doing this, she was able to work with this part of herself, rather than against it. This empowered her to speak from a place of passion, and not be held back by her fears, so now, not only was she delivering amazing Toastmasters speeches, she was having her opinion heard at work, and surfing a wave of confidence!

 

So, these are three ways I have worked in partnership with Toastmasters. If you fall into any one of these three categories, then get in touch to find out how I can help you.

Contact me

 

 

Does it matter to your listeners if your voice is hoarse? 

Linda Coyle

Listeners need to work harder to listen to a hoarse voice.

Does it matter to your listeners if you voice is hoarse? 

The short answer is yes! Some research conducted by Evitts and colleagues in 2016  found that while being hoarse didn’t affect how well someone was understood, it created more work for the listeners. When faced with a hoarse voice, it took the listeners more time to process what was said, and they more frequently misheard what the person had said. This issue is even more pronounced when it comes to children, as it has been found that children have more difficulty understanding a hoarse voice than a healthy voice, and that even a mildly hoarse voice can have an effect. In a world where attention spans are shrinking rapidly, and there are plenty of other distractions to compete with, the last thing you need is to add another one! So, if you are a professional voice user, i.e. someone who relies on their voice for their job, and your voice is not humming, do something about it…And here is one thing you can do!

 

Sign up to my mailing list, and get a free ‘Voice Health Check Questionnaire’. I have one for Trainers and Educators, and one for Professional Phone Users, so if you are a recruiter or work in sales, then this one is for you. I have also put together tips on how to take care of your voice. For a limited time, you can also access a free recording of my webinar, ‘Preventing Voice Burn-out for Trainers and Educators’ which I ran for World Voice Day on 16th April.

Voice Spotlight on: trainers

Linda Coyle

If you’re looking for a feature on different types of running shoes, I’m afraid you’re not in the right place! Instead, this post is about the speaking demands for professional voice users who do training.

Giving training has many challenges, some of which include:

  1. Needing to deliver at your best, even when you’re not feeling at your best.
  2. Working long hours be it direct training, travelling and/or preparation
  3. Training in environments where the air is dry and/or the temperature isn’t ideal.
  4. Speaking in uncomfortable positions, such as standing in one place for a long time or bending down to speak to people.
  5. Wearing footwear that looks great but may not be comfortable or giving you good support.
  6. Needing to use your voice to engage, inform, persuade, inspire and/or lead others.
  7. Feeling under time pressure/stressed,  and feeling that you can’t stop or take breaks.

Voice Health Check for Trainers and Educators

Does any of this resonate with you?

…If yes then read on…

 

Can you do anything different?

While there may be some things that we can’t change, there are plenty of other things that we can. Here are three to get you started:

  1. Stay hydrated– drink water, preferably at room temperature or warm, but not ice cold, as it keeps your vocal folds hydrated.
  2. Choose comfortable footwear. Look at your shoes, are they comfortable? (Maybe a link to running trainers may be useful here after all?!) Do they help you to be grounded, which is important both for your body and your head?
  3. Take short breaks during the day to do…nothing!

 

 

If you find that you’re running into trouble with your voice then check out my Resilient Voice Services.

Find out more

 

For more ideas, sign up to my mailing list and access my page of FREE stuff, including, voice care tips for professional voice users, and a Voice Healthcheck Questionnaire.

 

 

“You had me at hello,”…First impressions do count!

Linda Coyle

You had me at hello! First Impressions do count

Listeners readily form an impression of the personality of a speaker, and this is not easily changed! This phenomenon has been dubbed the ‘Jerry Maguire effect’ from the infamous line in the film Jerry Maguire. It is based on research which has shown that listeners make millisecond decisions about a person’s personality, and whether or not they trust someone, based on the sound of their voice.

Researchers McAleer et al (2014), in the University of Glasgow conducted a study in which listeners rated 64 different audio clips of speakers saying the word ‘hello’ across a range of personality traits. These included trustworthiness, aggressiveness, confidence, dominance and warmth.

They found that judgements were consistent across listeners. In particular, they found that  men who said hello with a higher pitched voice were deemed to be more trustworthy, but that for women it was based on a greater rise in pitch between the first and second vowel of ‘he-llo’.

So, what does this mean? Well while first impressions are influenced by a range of factors, such as appearance, facial expression, and body language, it is clear that the sound of your voice is crucial.

So, if your voice is not transmitting your authentic, vibrant personality, then you need to do something about it….but don’t worry I can help!

Find out more

 


					

Is your voice a bit worse for wear today? Here’s some vocal first aid!

Linda Coyle

Hoarse after a night out?

Perhaps you’re hoarse after a night of chatting over background noise, strained after a week of talking at work, or croaky at the end of giving a days’ training. If so, here’s some vocal first aid!

 

  1. Water, water water: Our vocal folds need lots of water, and more so when we’re doing a lot of talking in background noise. As well as drinking water, grab a beauty steamer and sit over it for 20 minutes to hydrate your vocal folds. One word of advice, don’t launch straight into doing a lot of talking after this, as it could strain your voice.
  2. Rest: Seems obvious, but it’s important to remember that our voice is housed within our body, so if we’re worn out it can manifest in our voice.
  3. Don’t whisper: Whispering, and particularly ‘stage whispering’ is really bad for the voice. If you’re hoarse, talk quietly, but don’t push it.
  4. Limit the amount of talking you do: OK so some of you may laugh at this prospect! However, taking time out from talking is important to give the vocal folds a bit of a rest.
  5. Try not to use the phone: Talking on the phone puts huge strain on the phone as we speak with more effort than when face to face.
  6. Go easy on the caffeine: What! Well caffeine dries our body, and so can dry the voice….but one or two are just fine…just have a glass of water with them!

Perhaps this is a one off, but if you find that your voice is hoarse or weak frequently then it’s important to do something about it. Because, as with any part of our body, if we abuse it repeatedly, it eventually lets us know that enough is enough! No, you don’t need to forego talking, but you do need to re-connect with your free and flexible voice…and I can help.

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Why it’s better to project the voice than focus on speaking loudly

Linda Coyle

Do you try too hard to have your voice be heard?

One reason that people contact me is that they find that their voice doesn’t project, or that if they do project it, that their voice becomes hoarse or strained. One of the reasons for this is that people equate projecting with being louder. I find that this isn’t helpful, as when we think ‘loud’, we tend to push our voice and our body, using excess effort. This results in closing the space within our body and throat.

Instead, we need to focus on space and openness, and allowing the sound to come out.  How to do this? Here are five tips:

1) Tune into your body: Become aware of how you are standing or sitting. Imagine your body like a tree. Your feet are connected to the ground, and from the waist upwards you rise up tall. As you tune into your body, you may notice areas of tension…just observe them, don’t try to stop them.

2) Don’t push the sound out with your body: Sometimes people feel that they need to use their body to get the sound to project. This is often seen in thrusting the neck forwards or pushing the upper body forwards. Often this is something that people do without realising.

3) Visualise space: Visualisation is very effective when working on the voice. Picture a vast open space, be it a scene from nature, or a high vaulted ceiling in a building. The idea of spaciousness is useful both in terms of space within your body, but also the voice projecting within a large space.

4) Open your mouth more: As you speak, let you jaw drop and open your mouth more. This helps to bring the sound more forward in your mouth, and so helps it to carry.

5) Enjoy what you are saying: Notice how you say words, and allow time to say them. Being playful helps your body, mind and voice to become more in sync, and this helps your voice to be more flexible and engaging…and to project with ease.

 

© [2018] Linda Coyle, Speak Brilliantly. All rights reserved.