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

 

 

Why our body is so important for successful speaking, Part 2

Linda Coyle

What the body has to do with being an engaging, confident speaker and 3 tips to help you get reacquainted!

An effective voice needs a free and flexible body

In Part 1 of this article I shared a Youtube video on why our body is important for confident, successful speaking. In part 2, I explore the topic further, and share three tips which will enable you to become a more confident and engaging speaker.

1. We speak in our body

…OK this can seem really obvious, but it’s really important to think about this one. We often think about the voice being in our throat area or mouth, but pay less attention to the fact that we use our whole body in order to speak. At most, we may hone in on breathing, having heard that it’s important to take deep breaths for good speaking, but that is often the height of it. And missing the body, means that you’re missing a vital tool for engaging and confident speaking.

In order to speak successfully we need to have a free and flexible body. What does this mean? Well it includes things like having shoulders which are relaxed and not scrunched up, a jaw which is flexible and not tight, legs which support you but are not fixed, a posture which is open and confident, while not rigidly adhering to ‘head up, shoulders back’ which we often perceive as ‘good posture.’

Another key factor is space…not the intergalactic kind! To speak in an engaging and effective manner we want space… space inside our body for our voice to resonate well, space inside our throat, mouth and nose, so that our voice sounds engaging, space inside our head for clarity, as well as a sense of space around us, the area that we want our voice to fill.

 

2.Our body reacts to fear

This is probably the biggest motivator for why we need to connect with our body when we want to come across as a confident speaker. Fear is our body’s reaction to a perceived threat, so we see a lion, we get palpitations, sweat, and get ready to run- fight or flight, or we may freeze, stuck to the spot. Stand in front a podium, and the same physical reactions are not that dissimilar! So, we’re hard wired to keep ourselves safe, and even though to our rational brain, the fear of a speaking situation, be it public speaking, or dealing with a conflict situation, may seem highly irrational, the fact is, that our body doesn’t agree. So, while we may try to either talk ourselves out of this ‘irrational’ thinking, or ignore the nervous feelings, (and/or the stressful event until the last minute!), we are likely to be on a losing battle! Essentially we’re fighting against a wave which is much more powerful that we are.

 

Another thing that happens, is that as we get more stressed we move further into our head, and if these thoughts are left unchecked, we become more disconnected from our body.  This tends to maintain a negative cycle including features such as anxiety, panic, dread, over thinking and self-criticism.

 

So, what to do? Here are three tips to get you more connected to your body in under a few minutes each day. If you practice these regularly, you’ll find that become more body aware, and this in turn will enable you to be a more confident and engaging speaker. So here we go!

 

1. Get more grounded

The simple act of standing up and noticing our connection with the ground is very powerful. While you can do this wearing shoes, it can be particularly useful to do this exercise without shoes on, so that you’re really noticing the contact of your feet with the ground. When we’re stressed we move upwards into our head, so moving downwards, brings us back down to earth…literally! It can be very powerful how settling this is. The very act of choosing to become more grounded means that we stop what we’re doing, and that that is vital if we want to speak with power.

2. Do a body scan

A body scan is simply taking a 10-20 seconds or up to a minute or two, to scan down along your body from the top of your head down to your feet. It’s a chance to stop, become more present in yourself and be a curious observer of your body. I know that for me, when I do a body scan, I often notice tightness in my body which I hadn’t been aware of before. By regularly taking time to scan through your body, then you can get more tuned in to what is happening, and be able to speak from a place of presence. It’s useful to practice body scans when you’re in a relaxed environment, so that you can use them when you’re faced with a scary speaking situation where you desperately want to be confident.

If you’d like help with doing a body scan, then you can access an audio recording on  Day 1 of my Speak with confidence e-course which is currently available for free.

Find out more

 

3. Do mindful movement and stretching.

We can be great at doing lots of exercise but not necessarily be that aware of what we’re doing. Taking time to do simple stretches slowly and mindfully gets us more connected to our body. This could be as simple as scrunching up your shoulders, holding the tension, and then releasing, but being really aware as you are doing it. I particularly like many of the exercises used by Daniela Razocher of Bodies at Work , which can be accessed here.

 

Be curious, don’t judge

With each of these three tips to help you get more connected to your body, the key thing is to be curious about what you notice, and not judge. It’s very easy to take a dislike to feelings within the body, such as pain or tightness, but ironically it’s by getting to know them that they hold less power over you when you stand up to speak. So, be brave, and take a body aware step towards speaking with confidence today!

 

I hope that you found this article useful. Do share any comments you have, and let me know how you got on with the exercises.

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.

“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.

Find out more

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.

 

Take a deep breath, does this help or hinder?!

Linda Coyle

Do you take a deep breath to calm down?

Natural Reaction

As I launch my new website, I feel both excitement and the nervousness of starting something new…. A natural reaction is that I find that I’m holding my breath, and so I need to let the breath flow….While there are outstanding benefits of focusing on our breath,  it can also cause problems, particularly when it relates to effective voice use. I have found that time and again, clients who have struggled with some aspect of speaking have been told to ‘take a deep breath’. This could be to help cope with nerves, to stop stammering, to project the voice better, or to sing better.

Taking a Breath can have the Opposite Effect

Now in theory this sounds like a very simple and sensible idea, but the funny thing is that quite frequently it has the opposite effect to what was intended.

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