"Sex, Power and Your Voice" is Coming to Your Inbox!

It’s a great time to sign up for my monthly email list! I’ve been working on a 3-part series of posts called, “Sex, Power and Your Voice” that I can’t wait to share with you. After 20+ years of coaching women’s voices, I’ve observed that there is a vital link between our sexuality, our safety, and our voice. I'n this exclusive series I”ll share some lessons I’ve learned and give you some exercises to help you find your Power Voice. I’ll also share some experiences I’ve had with clients, and a bit of my own story as well.

My mailing list is the ONLY place to get “Sex, Power and Your Voice”, so sign up on this page now!

Elizabeth Holmes and the Audacity of Women's Voices

By now we've all heard the story: a 19-year old Stanford dropout dupes a pantheon of big-money investors into giving billions to her phony blood-testing company, Theranos. After a whirlwind of accolades, features, and snuggle time with Oprah, Holmes' deception is unmasked by a whistleblower in her own company, and she is indicted by a federal grand jury on twelve separate counts of fraud. Currently awaiting sentencing, she is out of the public eye but very much in the public imagination, due in large part to HBO's documentary "The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley" that was just released a few days ago. Among Holmes' fascinating characteristics, she apparently pitched her speaking voice down into a very low range, the better to appear authoritative when convincing people that her work was legit. In my work as a professional voice coach specializing in strengthening women's voices in the workplace, this is the kind of thing that I find infuriating. Not because there is anything inherently wrong with a woman dropping her voice, but because our entire society feels entitled to comment on this behavior, and to add it to the pile of judgement and condemnation of Holmes herself.

To be clear: in no way am I endorsing Holmes' crimes. What she did was wrong, and there are serious consequences to her actions that continue to unfold. She should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Yet altering one's voice is not a crime, and should not be regarded as such. Women, especially, need the freedom to experiment, play and discover our full voice, because we are societally conditioned to make our voice (and our bodies, opinions, and careers) smaller than those of men. Unfortunately society does not allow us to do so.

Here are two questions I put to every group of women that I coach: "Please raise your hand if you've ever been told that your voice is too high and feminine?" Inevitably about 50% of their hands go up. "Now raise it if you've been told that your voice is too low and masculine?" Then the other 50%. See the problem?? We are constantly being told how to be women. Either we are speaking too high (ie: girlish, feminine, and lacking in authority) or too low (ie mannish, masculine, and threatening). We can't win. This is why, when I'm coaching women's voices, I also coach them to push back against gendered feedback. It's important to note that we can and should be listening for valuable feedback about our voices that addresses things like volume, clarity, pacing and content. But anything with gender attached to it can go right into the trash.

By the way, there are extraordinary women in the public eye right now whose voices cannot be called low or masculine by any stretch of the imagination. Kirsten Gilibrand comes immediately to mind. The US senator just announced her campaign for presidency, and her voice, in its natural (higher) pitch, radiates presence, power and authority. If she became president she might actually reset our cultural belief that a low/masculine range is the default setting for projecting power. Wouldn't that be something!

As I've said numerous times: women's voices are always about women's power: how we feel about our power, how we broadcast our power to the material world, and how the world responds to that power. Holme's chose to use her power for evil instead of good. But all women deserve to experiment, play, and discover our voices, and our power, on our own terms.

BREAKING NEWS and Updates

I’m coming to LA in March!! Ticket link below the video:

This event sells out fast, so grab your ticket for the LA Bootcamp:

More dates for “Public Speaking Bootcamp for Women” located on the classes page HERE.

I’m honored to appear on Heather Newman’s “Creative Mavens” podcast this month, in which I talk about how an incident in high school turned me into a feminist activist at age 15, and how it shaped the work I do with strengthening women’s voices. You can listen right HERE.

If you would like to book a private Zoom session with me to work on your public speaking, use the email form and I’ll send you back the next available dates in my schedule. Looking forward to working with you!

Thousands of Women Taught Me This About Power...

Here’s a LinkedIn article I just published about my work coaching women’s public speaking. NOTE: Although I focused on that particular aspect of my work in this piece, I also still teach singing lessons on occasion. Email me directly if you’d like to try a private singing or public speaking lesson alicia@aliciadara.com

In my job as a professional voice coach, I specialize in working women. In a nutshell, I teach public speaking skills like breath support, pacing, and vocal projection, and help my clients clarify their messaging. I also show them how to push back against acts of everyday sexism, like being interrupted, talked over, and having their ideas co-opted. I do this via group trainings and private lessons. 

Everyone has the same basic vocal anatomy: vocal cords, lungs, and diaphragm muscle. How we use them to produce our own voice is a highly individualized process. It involves kinesthetic, mental, and emotional elements that we engage every single day. No two people are alike, and I'm constantly surprised by the myriad variety of human voices. Yet women's voices in particular compel me, because we are constantly moving between how we want to live and what is expected of us. This struggle is reflected in our voices, and if you know how to listen for it, you can learn a lot about what women are truly capable of (spoiler alert: anything!). 

I love my job as much as a person can. It takes me into many different industries and businesses, such as tech, law, finance, education, start-ups and social justice. My clients run the gamut from huge enterprise companies (such as Microsoft, where I am currently a vendor), and 3- or 4-person small businesses. In 20+ years I've had the opportunity to observe and interact with thousands of women, and I've come to understand something that I believe is crucial to the continued progress of women in our society. 

It's simple. Women's voices are always about women's power: how we feel about our power, how we broadcast our power to the material world, and how the world responds to that power. It's obvious right at this particular moment in our political landscape that when women work collectively and raise our voices, we can accomplish astonishing things. The #MeToo movement is only one example. Women are running for political office in record numbers. We're also drawing attention to the lack of equal representation at the highest levels of business and industry, demanding real change, and creating real solutions. And of course let's not forget equal pay for equal work, a concept that has existed for more than half a century, yet is still not fully enacted into law (or practiced by every employer). 

I'm honored to have a front-row seat to these extraordinary events, as women's voices grow stronger than ever. Are you ready to come and join us? For information about the next "Public Speaking Bootcamp for Women" click here.

Self-Care for Your Voice (And the Rest of You!)...

Let's take stock for a moment: how has your voice improved in the past year? What do you want to work on in 2018? Got any outstanding questions or fears holding you back? Got some good trainings lined up to learn new skills? How about the overall health of your voice? Believe it or not, it's connected to the overall health of your body.

Being human comes with many challenges. We know that stress is bad for us, and we bravely struggle to maintain a balance of mind, body and spirit that enables us to be our best in the world. Now more than ever, self-care is a worthwhile investment of our precious time. If you're going to speak (and sing) up for yourself, some of that time needs to be dedicated to your voice. 

I'm constantly reminding my clients that the health of your body IS the health of your voice. If you are tired, run-down, and listless your voice will be as well. Getting to good health involves a series of good habits, big and small, that we practice every day. Over time we come to trust these habits as they begin to work, making us stronger, fitter, and more resilient. 

Some excellent habits that can improve the health of your voice (and your entire body) are drinking more water (start with a giant glass of H20 before your morning coffee), prioritizing sleep (try going to bed an hour earlier, and let your body learn to relax into it), and working on cardio fitness (so that your lungs are healthy and strong, for deeper breath support when you speak and sing). These are proven ways to uplift your overall state of health as well as that of your voice. There is one other important issue I want to address, and that is chronic pain/ inflammation.

Inflammation is part of the aging process. The degree to which we experience its effects depends on both genealogical and lifestyle factors. Some of these are beyond our control, but many of them we can improve via our good daily habits. There are some kinds of inflammation, however, that can and should be addressed (and healed) for the good of your voice. Some of these include chronic lung issues, like asthma, bronchitis and frequent colds that lead to coughs. The larynx, home of your vocal cords, sits right on top of the trachea, your windpipe. Coughing and wheezing can cause the larynx to become tense and irritated. Many people try to "power through" these kinds of illnesses, thinking that they'll resolve on their own. But if left untreated for too long these issues can cause terrible hoarseness, and even long-term laryngitis. If your voice is compromised your ability to be effective in the world is limited, because you cannot speak up for yourself in a powerful way.

I advise my clients to take care of these issues quickly when they appear. I also remind them that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure", and encourage them to explore new and more effective ways to boost their immunity. For myself, I've always had great success with acupuncture, which I receive regularly. I also avoid dairy products, which cause huge problems in my digestion, sleep, and vocal tone, and make any allergy/cold symptoms much worse. I guard my sleep carefully, and make sure not to stay too long (or party too hard) at parties. If there's one thing I've learned from my years onstage, it's that you should always leave 'em wanting more :)

5 Life Hacks That Strengthen Your Voice...

As I've stated many times, the health of our body IS the health of our voice. We cannot speak or sing with full energy if we don't have that energy available. Good vocal health comes from good physical, mental, and emotional health working in balance with each other. For most of us this ideal state is elusive, because the demands of modern life take their toll on every part of us, and the speed of life often moves too quickly to catch up. Efficiency techniques can help, which is where life hacks come in handy. In the interest of multi-tasking our way toward good physical and vocal health, here are 5 life hacks* that can also positively impact your voice:

1) Morning H20

Wake up, sit up, and drink a tall glass of water. Yes, before coffee! Get ahead with your body's hydration, and you'll feel more energized throughout your day. Your vocal cords are fed by tiny capillaries that need water to maintain robust strength. You might even find that excess throat clearing (bad for your cords!) decreases, as the water thins out extra mucus hanging around in the sinuses and throat. Water up!

2) Deep Breathing Meditation

I designed this one for my clients. There is ample scientific evidence proving that deep breathing brings multiple benefits to the human body. During this process, the parasympathetic nervous system gets triggered and starts to implement its calming, soothing, anti-inflammatory effects. Your voice needs full, robust breath support to be its best, and getting more in touch with your respiratory system will help. Breathe in peace, breathe out calm.

3) Anti-Inflammatory Diet 

Any kind of anti-inflammatory lifestyle choices can positively impact your voice. The vocal cords and respiratory system are subject to the same effects of inflammation as the rest of you. Reducing it can greatly improve the clarity, fullness, and power of your voice. An anti-inflammatory diet is a good place to start. Enjoy the taste of good health.

4) Reduce (or Eliminate!) Dairy Products

This one is controversial, but in my experience it's worth considering. For the record, I am a strict "no-dairy" person. Too much dairy can cause excess mucus to form in the ear, nose and throat, and this can all impact your voice in a negative way. Aside from having to constantly clear your throat, your vocal tone can come out muffled and weak. I've observed that my clients' voices clear up considerably after a period of "dairy rest". Dairy has also been linked to digestive, menstrual, and skin issues. If you suffer from any of these, you might want to step back from the pizza and yoghurt. Calcium and probiotic supplements can fill in for things your body might miss.

5) Regular Humming (or Singing!)

A singer takes time every day to warm-up their voice through dedicated vocal exercises. This process is vital to the long-term health and stamina of singers' voices. Public speakers also do some vocal warm-ups that prepare them for their speeches. A good vocal coach can work with you to design specific exercises for your voice (contact me if you'd like a private session: alicia@aliciadara.com). This is a great way to commit to the long-term health and power of your voice. In the short term, try humming! Light, gentle humming keeps your vocal cords active. Music can also trigger good brain chemicals to start flowing, which can greatly improve your mood. Or try full-on singing! Just make sure you're safe from judgmental eyes and ears. My clients sing in the shower, in the car, or in the kitchen when fans are running on the stove. Try it!

*NOTE: consult your doctor before trying any of these

5 Ways CEO's Can Boost Women's Voices In the Workplace...

In this piece I'm choosing to address CEO's directly, because everywhere I coach (but especially in the corporate sector) women tell me the same thing: they feel that no matter how many inclusivity mandates and diversity trainings their companies provide, the C-suite is out of touch with with is actually happening on the ground. Some of these women have described a deep distrust of their companies' motives, in part because their CEO's do not demonstrate a knowledge of, or regard for, the very issues that they claim to be addressing, nor do they behave in ways that promote real change. The following is based on the feedback I've gotten from scores of women that I’ve worked with directly, and although it contains only 5 examples, there are many more. I hope you find it helpful. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments, or email me for further consultation: alicia@aliciadara.com

1) Participate in the exact same unconscious bias and diversity trainings as your employees. Learn the language and behavioral methods of inclusivity, and practice them wherever you go (even in your personal life!). Don’t just talk the talk: walk the walk! Demonstrate that you are just as accountable for your words and actions as any other employee. Don’t stop there: think of it as a life-long learning process. Your commitment could start a genuine revolution, and you could help change your entire company culture for the better. 

2) Know and understand your HR's effect on women and women-identified people. If HR is in a habitual defensive crouch then you cannot expect women to feel supported, or to trust HR to help out if they are made to feel unsafe in the workplace. Work with coaches and consultants who can help build a genuine bridge between HR and your company's female work force. The goal is to change the relationship from antagonistic to amenable, or at least receptive. Make it clear to all that this is the new mandate. If the entire company knows that HR is women's ally, you might actually prevent a whole host of problems before they start. 

3) Commit to 50% women and women-identified panelists at conferences. It’s utterly ridiculous to claim that your company values women and believes in workplace equality if you can’t produce an equal number of them to speak at these events. This may seem like "someone else's problem", but if you make it your own mission you can have a serious effect on the status, aspirations, and productivity of the women in your company. Stand up for your valuable female employees, and mandate the change that you (and they!) wish to see in the world. 

4) Ask women *directly* what they need to feel seen, heard, and valued at work. Don’t just rely on reports and executive summaries compiled by others. Gather your own information. Block out a period of time on your calendar for "open-door" sessions with any women who want to talk to you. Make this a yearly habit, and take it seriously. While it's true that some (perhaps many) women will be intimidated, there will be a group that will show up and talk about some vital points that you could otherwise miss. NOTE: this action should not replace anonymous surveys, which are crucial for amassing data and giving your company a sense of how best to serve women. Use both actions in tandem with each other, and take time to study the results thoroughly.  

5) And lastly (though it should always be first), speak up against sexism and misogyny in your own life. Don’t underestimate the powerful effect you can have on the lives of your wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, and friends. Letting them know you stand by them, and helping to further the cause of political, social, and economic equality in their lives on a daily basis is one of the most rewarding actions you can take. Actively working for these things will be part of the legacy that you leave behind. Take it seriously, and remember to keep learning! 

How to Rock When You're On Vocal Rest...

In my last post I wrote about the importance of using silence as part of your overall vocal health. I got a lot of questions about "vocal rest", specifically about how to employ it when you're a busy working professional, and I will attempt to answer them here.

First, a quick review: Vocal Rest means complete rest, as in: no speaking, singing, humming, or whispering. That last one might seem confusing, but although there is no actual vocal tone coming through when we whisper, our vocal cords are still active. Allowing them to FULLY rest is what decreases inflammation.

Clients often ask, "what about sleeping? aren't we resting everything while we sleep?". For an answer, just watch a dog (a fellow mammal with vocal cords) while it's sleeping. Many of us are just as active, if not more, during the night. We talk, hum, moan, and whisper. Some of us are even chronic sleep talkers, waking up with voices that are sore and hoarse. Even if we're mostly quiet during sleep, it's important to schedule regular periods of vocal rest during the day if we want our voice to function at full capacity.

So what to do if you work in a busy office? First, write the words "VOCAL REST" (in all caps) on a blank sticker and apply it to yourself in a visible place (try somewhere above your heart). Now grab a pen and pad of paper (or small dry-erase board), and place them nearby on your desk. When someone asks you a question that demands an immediate answer, first point to the sticker, then to the pad (or board), and write out your response. You can also do all your talking by Slack, or some other inter-office app. Remember: your voice is all about communication, so it's important to let others know that you are still able to communicate even though you're vocally compromised*.

Wear your sticker around the office, even in meetings. Don't be ashamed! Your co-workers will most likely appreciate your dedication, and the fact that you are fully present at work even when you can't speak. Many of my clients tell me that once they start this habit, others pick it up, and it becomes more commonplace and acceptable. Continue to drink plenty of water, use throat lozenges**, and whatever anti-inflammatory assists your doctor may have prescribed. Stay committed to your recovery, and thank your co-workers for their patience once your voice returns.

*NOTE: if you have a job that requires full vocal power, such as sales, teaching, or trial law, consult your doctor for help with reducing vocal inflammation quickly. Most likely you'll be referred to a specialist, commonly called an otolaryngologist, who can help you navigate the next steps. 

**NOTE: consult your doctor before using them

"Does Your Voice Undercut Your Authority?"

Here's a blog post that I've been working on for Covey Club, a unique online org for women over 40. It's founded by Lesley Jane Seymour, the former editor of More magazine. I so enjoyed collaborating with her and Dara Kapoor, who edited my piece beautifully. It's an answer to the many questions I get form women in the workplace, all about how to respond to criticism of their voices while on the job. Read it here.

How Silence Makes Your Voice Stronger...

The human body is a miracle of form, function, and art. If something is amiss with a certain system, other parts of the body will rush in to help out. During acute heart attacks, when a major artery gets completely blocked, the heart can spontaneously create new channels to keep blood pumping. When a dangerous virus enters our respiratory system, the mucus membranes go to work, deploying an enzyme that can destroy the virus' cell walls. Some of our organs, like the liver, can even regenerate if a part of them is lost.

Our vocal cords also have back-up when they need it. During times of acute stress, such as prolonged shouting, they can "borrow" muscles from around the larynx to help relieve pressure and boost sound. This process is called "Extra Muscle Recruitment", and it can be effective for short periods of time. Relying on EMR for too long can create massive tension and chronic inflammation, even full laryngitis. Once your voice is fully gone it's likely to stay that way for awhile. I usually advise my clients to plan on 3 days of complete vocal rest. 

In short, inflammation is a saboteur that can wreak havoc on your voice. A good way to prevent it is to build in periods of vocal rest during your day. Many of my clients schedule an "email hour" at work, during which they do not speak at all while they respond to emails and text messages. They drink Throat Coat tea, and allow the voice some recovery time

Another helpful method of reducing vocal inflammation that I often use with my clients is Guided Breathing Meditation (I created this one), during which we focus on deep, diaphragmatic breathing, and visualize the larynx relaxing and settling into its non-inflamed position in the throat. This period of quiet and reflection can work wonders, as the para-sympathetic nervous system starts to work it's calming, soothing magic. Try it for a few days, and enjoy the extra stress-relief. Who knows... it could become a regular habit!

Another Podcast Interview...

Here's another podcast appearance, this time with Lara Dalch, a Seattle-based wellness and empowerment coach. Her show is called "Women on the Rise" and it's a goldmine of great interviews with compelling women. Lara and I talked about the elements of a powerful voice, how to project genuine (not faked) confidence, and the importance of self-care as we move forward through the world. 

Podcast Interview...

I just did a fun interview with Kate Olson on her "Embrace Change Radio" podcast, all about my background as a singer, and my belief that singing is good for humanity. I also spoke about some basic vocal warm-up techniques, and the most important elements of any good singing voice. I even mentioned a bit about why I chose to walk away from years of training in musical theater to pursue my goal of becoming a singer-songwriter. The link is here

Why Your Singing Voice Matters...

It's been awhile since I wrote a dedicated post for singers. Lately I've been focusing on issues related to public speaking, like self-care, breath support, and eliminating extra tension. These same elements apply to your singing voice, as we use exactly the same anatomy for both speaking and singing. But singing involves an extra dimension that is downright mysterious, even magical. 

For most of us, to sing with technique and skill requires hours of practice. We dedicate this time to getting in touch with the physicality of our voice: our respiratory system, vocal cords, and postural alignment are all strengthened and made to work efficiently together. Improvement comes naturally from these efforts, as long as we are listening and feeling as much as we're producing sound. Eventually we start to come into the full power of our voice, which means we can begin to apply our own artistic interpretation and aesthetic values to whatever we're singing. This is, in fact, the ultimate goal of "studying" singing. 

Yet there is something else, a kind of secret energy, that rises up in a singer when they are practicing (or performing) their craft. It is something related to human emotions, and the ways in which we experience the world through them. When a singer is in touch with this energy, it almost doesn't matter if they have good vocal technique. We can feel that person's connection to their own emotional intelligence, and we respect, admire, and cherish it. We can hear this kind of energy across the board in every genre of music, in punk, funk, jazz, blues, country, folk and opera. We know it when we hear it, and we always want more. 

I believe this extra element of energy is also connected to something deeply spiritual, and fundamental to the human experience. In my best moments as a singer, I feel transported to a place where time stops. There is no past or future, no striving or struggle, only a simple yet extraordinary feeling of being completely present. This is a state of being that can transform us, as a species, in profound ways. It makes me feel hopeful for humanity, and I try to bring this hope into everything I do. For me singing is a kind of prayer, and I take it seriously, with much love.  

How to Give A Speech When Your Voice Is Hoarse...

I get this question at least once a week: "what should I do if my voice is weak and I have to give a presentation/talk/performance?" First of all, if you have full laryngitis, as in complete loss of voice, it won't come back until it's good and ready (and of course, you should consult your doctor anytime you have questions about your voice). I advise my clients to plan on at least 3 days of full vocal rest, and to re-schedule their obligations until after that. If, however, your voice is merely hoarse (which I will define here as rough, strained, and set at lower volume), you might be able to initiate at least a partial recovery on your own. Here are some things you can try:

1) Set aside a period of dedicated vocal rest. Set a timer for 3 hours of complete silence. Commit to this simple act of relief, and don't stop until the time is up. Let your vocal cords calm down and settle. You can also take some Ibuprofen to help with inflammation (consult your doctor before trying this).

2) Drink a tall glass of water. Your voice needs plenty of hydration to function at full capacity. Make a strong cup of Throat Coat tea, and let it cool down a bit before you drink it. The soothing herbal formula should continue to soothe and calm inflammation in your throat. You can try some throat lozenges during this time as well. 

3) Focus on breathing deeply, while relaxing and muscles in the throat that are tense. Close your eyes and feel everything relaxing and settling down into its proper place. Keep allowing this release of tension as you go through your day

4) When your period of vocal rest is done, do some light humming, in a vocal range that feels the most comfortable. Don't reach too high, and don't growl too low. Find the center of your voice, and start there. 

5) Work through your speech, song, or presentation at low volume, remembering to breathe deeply into the diaphragm for support. Slowly increase volume, and see how it feels. Make sure your posture is aligned and comfortable. Don't strain your neck forward, or tense your back. Hopefully you will begin to feel stronger, but save your full voice for the actual event. 

Many of my clients book "emergency" sessions if they wake up hoarse on the morning of a big event. I run them through simple vocal exercises, but not before I've advised them to do this protocol. Try it and see how it feels.... you might work your way back!

Neck Tension and The Human Voice...

As I've stated before, when our body is weak and/or compromised, so is our voice. Two fundamental elements of vocal strength, namely postural alignment and deep diaphragmatic breathing, are often stymied by whatever other physical conditions are going on. Chronic pain and tension can, over time, weaken our voice considerably if we're holding our body in a position that is not what it should be, causing intense misalignment of the spine. Pain can also steal some of our precious breath, if we're breathing "around the pain", and not allowing a full inhale and exhale to take place. In my 25 years of teaching singing and public speaking, I have observed that there is one particular kind of body issue that can sabotage the voice, and that is neck tension.

Take a minute and put your hands around your neck. See if you can touch your thumbs and index fingers together. If you can then you have a smaller-sized neck, but even if you can't the neck circumference is actually quite small, compared to the enormous job it has to do. Crammed inside that area is your spinal cord, your esophagus (where the food goes down), your trachea (windpipe), on top of which sits your larynx, which houses your vocal cords. As if that's not enough, you also have a series of glands, lymph nodes, and veins, including the vital carotid artery. In addition, the neck contains a series of small but mighty muscles that are used for everything from swallowing to just holding up your head! 

It's no wonder that head/neck alignment are so important to the voice. If we are tense in the neck, our larynx can become mis-aligned from its precise position, causing the vocal cords to over-compensate and strain when we sing or speak. Although our vocal cords can "borrow" from other muscles nearby (in a process called "extra muscle recruitment"), this action is not sustainable in the long term, and can cause strain, hoarseness, or even full laryngitis. 

There are many causes of chronic neck tension, and you should consult your doctor* if you suffer from it. That said, a few things that you can try for relief include changing to a thinner pillow, working out regularly to build more muscle in the back and neck, making sure that your work desk is ergonomically aligned, and gentle yoga. One of my favorite things to do at the end of the day is to stand with my back to a wall, and roll around on this therapy ball, which is soft enough to be gentle, but firm enough to loosen tight muscles in the shoulders and neck. Try it gently at first, for 60 seconds on each side of the spine, and see how it feels.

Once you've freed up some space in your neck, your voice should feel more relaxed, full, and free. Everything we do with our voice should have these qualities

NOTE: consult your doctor before trying any of the neck tension relief methods listed in this post.

Client Testimony...

Here's a quote from Nikki Barron's recent LinkedIn article about her work with me. Nikki is a women’s equality activist, community builder, Jedi-master marketer, and excellent photographer. She's a young dynamo with great skills and drive, so I know she'll go far with her voice:

"When I started going to Alicia I went with a goal. It was July and I had booked a show to sing in on my birthday, December 23rd. I built a showcase with all my friends called A Very Country Christmas. I was to open the show with two songs. I had a long long way to go.

During our first lesson, she asked me how I use my voice. I started with "I have a small voice, I want.." and she interrupted me and said, "No you don't." Which really surprised me to hear. I told her the stories of trying to simply order a beer or not being heard in a meeting and she said: "...that's not because your voice is small it's just stuck in a box." I can't describe the sense of relief I felt when a professional voice coach told me that one of my biggest insecurities could be remedied."

Read the full article here.

 

Every Public Speaker (and Singer) Needs to Improve This....

NOTE: the next "Public Speaking Bootcamp for Women" is coming up on Tuesday March 27th, from 5-7pm in downtown Seattle, and you can get your tickets here.

My voice clients range from complete beginners, working on basic skills and gathering confidence, to experienced speakers, looking to polish their prepared speech for a presentation or event. My job is to meet each client right where they are, and work with whatever's going on in their voice at that time. Each has vocal issues that we address with specific exercises and practice. Each has their own unique vocal qualities and strengths that can be brought out. Regardless of ability, every public speaker can benefit from improving one particular skill.

Quite often, when I'm coaching experienced speakers, I can hear that they've found a comfortable voice that makes sense to them. Their diction is crisp, their inflection is musical, and their tone is smooth. Yet something is lacking in their vocal presence, that elusive quality that makes a truly dynamic public speaker. This quality comes from breath support: being fully connected to the diaphragm muscle as it contracts and expands, and feeds breath to the vocal cords. Support is what gives the voice that extra energy and charisma. 

If the vocal cords are not getting enough breath support they will start to get tense, and this tension will accumulate as you continue to talk. The result is that your voice will start to sound tight and strained. Think of the feeling of shouting across the street to someone, and imagine that feeling growing with every word you say. This is no way to deliver a public talk! Learning how to engage the diaphragm while relaxing the vocal cords takes awhile. As we begin to connect more with the physical action(s) of our breath, we can add more energy and power to our voice. Try this: sit up straight in your chair, and loosen any tight belt or waistband. Now close your eyes and point to your navel. Imagine that you are inhaling and exhaling through the navel, and practice this action with your mouth both closed and open. Breathe deeper, and feel your belly relax and expand. If you're doing it correctly, the belly will contract naturally on the exhale. By the way, I recommend meditation for this particular purpose (here's the one I created for my clients). This video will guide you further.

5 Ways A Strong(er) Voice Can Change Your Life....

Some of us are able to meet the everyday demands on our voice. We might occasionally feel a bit strained, or even hoarse, at the end of the day, but our overall vocal health is stable, and we don't have a ton of fear about speaking up in public. Yet our voice is more than just the physical anatomy of communication. It is our most powerful way of expressing who we are, and all our thoughts, dreams, desires, and plans. As I've said before, when we strengthen our voice we are also strengthening our personal power, and our ability to be fully effective in the world. Here are 5 ways that a strong voice can change your life:

1) Greater impact in business: this is the main reason why clients take my trainings, and come for private lessons. A strong voice gets noticed, for all the right reasons. Asserting yourself at work has been linked to greater career advancement. Making a presentation with a full, clear voice helps others take you more seriously. Negotiating a raise or salary bump with full vocal confidence helps remind your superiors of your value. BTW: here's some info on the next "Public Speaking Bootcamp for Women" events.

2) Greater overall confidence: having a strong, resonant voice feels great! Being able to make yourself heard under any circumstances is a skill that approximates a super power. Knowing that your voice can last through an evening of noisy parties, or a day of team sports, can help you feel more secure in your social life. 

3) More effective communication: voicing your ideas and opinions with gusto is important, but as your voice gets stronger you might no longer need superfluous chatter just to keep someone's attention. The more we feel the effects of our strong new voice's charisma on those around us, the less we are inclined to abuse it out of social insecurity. Judicious use of our vocal power means being selective with it. We'll speak when we have something to say, and we'll be noticed and heard. 

4) Greater leadership ability: a commanding voice is the minimum we expect of a great leader. Everyone's voice is unique, and while there are some vocal qualities such as high-volume and booming resonance that naturally lend themselves to leadership, your voice may have other qualities that make it compelling. In any case, speaking clearly without strain is a skill that can be learned (it is the one most of my clients are working on). Most of us could stand to get used to the new, confident sound of our voice once it is fully supported and resonant. This process can take awhile, but it is always rewarding.

5) More powerful manifestation: articulating out loud what we need and want in our life can bring magical results. I often ask clients to write out a paragraph that describes their goals. Then I have them read it aloud, standing up in a presentational posture, and filling the room with their voice. Hearing themselves proclaim what they are seeking makes their goals clearer. If there is something that sounds or feels false, clients usually know it, and either cross it off or edit until it's right. This process can produce new ideas about the next part of a client's journey, and helps get them closer to where they want to go. Through the years I've gotten many glowing reports from clients about all kinds of progress that started with this exercise of simply stating their target(s) clearly.