Are you one of those people that find public speaking terrifying? Well, you are not alone. Luckily there are companies like Vital Voice Training that can help null those terrors by teaching strategy, technique and helping you practice! Casey Clark and Julie Fogh are the masterminds behind Vital Voice Training and have transformed their experience in acting to help others seize the stage. Read on about what all they offer and how they will make you eager for your next presentation. Plus, catch them in person on Wednesday, September 21st at our Art of The Elevator Pitch event in San Francisco.
1) What is Vital Voice Training and what services do you offer?
If you want the world to know the amazing things you have to offer, you have to be able to speak confidently, communicate clearly, and connect with audiences (whether in a one on one conversation or in front of a crowd). We founded Vital Voice Training to bring our skills as professional actors and speech coaches to help our clients do just that! We work with people one on one on everything from presenting at pitch competitions and TEDx to how to navigate tough conversations to “communicating like a manager”, and we really enjoy finding creative ways to help people change the habits that aren’t serving them. We also love doing group workshops and seminars and working with organizations.
2) What is the most common reason people hire a presentation coach?
Very smart people hire us for the same reason they might hire a personal trainer, a stylist, a tutor, an executive coach, etc - it’s our job to be the outside eye and use our expert toolbox to bring out your inner awesome. Your voice is a huge part of your identity and personal brand--it says as much about you as your wardrobe or handshake, and it’s intensely personal. Your voice is influenced by everything that makes you YOU, and you built these habits over a lifetime.
Top tier actors know that it’s almost impossible to be the director and actor at the same time - and when it comes to giving presentations, often what we want to communicate and what we do communicate are often much further apart than we realize. In addition to your voice and physical presence, we can help you edit and refine content so that you are landing the message you want to land - and really shining while you do it.
3) How did you both meet and what inspired you to begin Vital Voice Training?
We met over a shared love of a fitness program called “Shrink Session” (which we lovingly call affirmation aerobics) - it’s a HIIT dance workout that involves shouting mantras, so we’ve been using our voices powerfully together since the beginning! Some of the women in the class started a goal-setting group, and once we realized our similar backgrounds - and our similar frustrations with both traditional speech coaching and the messages women get about their voices from the media - it became incredibly natural to build something together.
Traditional speech coaching is based on the idea that there is a right way and a wrong way to sound. It’s not true. The entire model of the “right” way to sound is based on sounding like someone else - instead of realizing that true vocal power sounds different on everyone. There is also a lot of results oriented work- varying pitch, pace and volume in a purely external way, which ignores the fact that when we get out of our own way and beneath our habits, our voices NATURALLY have those things. (Think about it- are you using the same tone when you talk to a puppy as you would talking to your boss? Have you ever had trouble with volume when someone was trying to shove you off the subway?- Likely not.) Connecting with the source of voice and speech habits means you have more range in choices.
How is anyone supposed to learn how to communicate effectively when they have confusing and often DIRECTLY CONTRADICTORY advice -- i.e. “pauses make you sound smarter” (an actual sentence we just read in a blog post about public speaking) vs. “conversation is a tennis game, never let the ball drop”--thrown at them constantly? “Lower your voice to be taken seriously” - except don’t vocal fry (which is often a direct result of an artificially lowered pitch). “Speak up, ladies!”, but of course, don’t be shrill or shouty. It’s impossible to follow everyone’s rules for how you should act. If you’re trying to, you’re inevitably in your own head instead of being in the moment.
Most of the information that is out there (Five Easy Tips to Communication Success!) is either laughably simplistic - a friend of ours likened most internet advice to “Don’t bring your parents on your first date” - or weird blanket tips that could not possibly apply to every situation.
At the end of the day, we want to add nuance to these discussions and help our clients feel powerful while remaining true to themselves, their core values, and what is already working.
4) Fear of Public speaking is one of the top phobias in the world what advice do you have to help people overcome this fear?
The first thing to know is that you can’t STOP being nervous . . . Feeling nervous in front of an audience? Congratulations, you’re a human being. That clammy feeling on the back of your neck - the shortness of breath - the dry mouth or shaking hands - it’s all part of a totally normal reaction to stress. What you CAN learn to do is channel and reframe those nerves. The same part of your brain that gave your ancestors the energy and focus needed to run away from the stampeding mastodon is giving you the energy you need to get up in front of that crowd. Nerves = energy.
There are lots of tools for reframing those negative feelings: creating a rockstar “pre-game” self-talk routine, breathing exercises, focusing on what you want to communicate instead of how WELL you want to do, etc., but it all comes down to staying present with yourself and your audience and not striving for a perfect end result. Perfect doesn’t exist.
5) Where do you envision Vital Voice Training in the next five years?
Obviously we want to be a wildly successful business - we’d like to hire more teachers and speak at lots of fab conferences and write a book and have a bi-coastal presence. But we also have small goals of changing what communication looks like in the workplace. :)
Plenty of modern offices still have unwritten rules about what authority and power look and sound like that wouldn’t be out of place on an episode of Mad Men. As much as companies may want to embrace diversity and inclusion, it’s never going to work until we embrace different models and accept the idea that confidence and effective communication can look totally different on different people. Those communication double binds that women and minorities experience (Speak up but don’t be shrill! Put yourself forward but don’t be aggressive! Be “authentic” but make sure you fit in!) often seem impossible to navigate. The onus can’t JUST be on the individual to improve - there are systemic issues that need to be addressed. We want to be part of that conversation.