Make Room, Leave Space, Give Time

A favourite exercise that I love to share with my students is “The Cold Read Exercise”. Cold reading means reading aloud a text that you’ve never seen before. Or, in an audition situation, you may have been given five minutes to look through it, after which you are required to perform it as best you can, with the script in your hand to refer to.

Chatting about the Cold Read Exercise

At first, I taught this exercise to actors, so that they could be more confident in a cold read audition. Then I taught it to the volunteer narrators who recorded audio books for a library for visually impaired people. More recently, I’ve been learning just how useful it is for anyone — actors, public speakers, teachers —anyone who uses their speaking voice to share ideas, stories, information.

It’s an exercise that allows you to experience how your voice sounds, how it feels, in the moment of speaking. You begin to understand the difference between ‘reading voice’, ‘doing-acting voice’, ‘quoting remembered text voice’ and ‘meaning what you are saying voice’. These different types of delivery don’t just feel and sound different to you. They sound different to your listeners, your audience. The actual vocal quality is subtly, but extremely profoundly different. They are all appropriate ways of speaking, depending on the context. Sometimes you want your audience to know that you are reading something aloud. Sometimes you need them to know that you are quoting somebody else. You never want to be doing ‘doing-acting voice’, unless you are having fun with it, because it is also the voice of so-called ‘over-acting’, or ‘over the top acting’, which is also known as poor, or bad acting. In other words, we are hearing something that sounds like acting, instead of hearing you, or hearing the character you are portraying.

Most, if not all of the time, we want to be heard. We want our listeners to engage with our ideas, to be entertained by our stories, to be informed by whatever we want to share with them.

If you’d like to know more about the Cold Read Exercise, you can book in for a private session, or invite some friends or colleagues to join you for a group session. Contact me here.

Don’t Shoot Me!

Have you heard about Projection? It’s very popular, for most of my clients it’s the first thing they ask for. “I need help with my Projection”. What they mean is, how do I get to heard at the back of the room?

No 2 in Flloyd’s new mini video series

I know what ‘projection’ means. I was taught it, back in the day. It involves using a great deal of nasal resonance (which is NOT the same as ‘nasal voice’) to get an edgy kind of sound that cuts through glass. Not a pleasant sound, but by golly it carries! I can teach you how to do it, and with a lot of practise you will be able to do it.

But… You don’t need it. You can learn how to use your beautifully supported fully embodied voice to share your stories, your ideas, your knowledge with your audience in such a way that they are drawn in to listen, rather than feel blasted back in their seats.

This is just one of the skills we’ll work on in the pilot online course I’m proposing to set up in a couple of months. If you’d like to take part, fill in this short survey, share your thoughts about how you think such a course could help you to improve your public speaking skills. And don’t forget to subscribe on the Youtube channel, there will be more… (Click on the link in the sidebar on the right-hand side of this page).

Permission to Stuff Up, Sir?

Clive Dunn as Lance Corporal Jones. (BBC Pictures)

One of my favourite tv comedy shows, back in the day, was the BBC’s “Dad’s Army”, and my favourite character was Lance Corporal Jones, played by Clive Dunn. He had two fabulous catch phrases: “DON’T PANIC!!!” which he would shout while running around panicking, and “Permission to speak, sir?” which was always granted by Captain Mannering.

This afternoon, standing at the bus stop with my groceries, thinking about all the great advice I’ve been getting from various websites who want to help me set up my online course (at a price, of course), two thoughts suddenly collided inside my brain. Thought (1): most people’s greatest fear when it comes to speaking in public is that their nerves will get the better of them; Thought (2): what if they had permission to stuff up?

Dare to Thrive in the Present Moment

That’s a quote, and – shame on me – I don’t remember who said it. But yes, let’s not wait for permission to stuff up. That permission is not in anybody else’s gift but our own, and we all have the right and the power to give ourselves that permission. When we do, we ARE daring to thrive in the present moment.

But don’t take my word for it. That would just be leaving the authority with me. Try it out for yourself. Your way. I can give you exercises, even a whole programme to help you to TRAIN YOURSELF, so that you take charge of your own process, and the daring is all yours. So is the stuffing up, but that is where the actual learning happens. It happens when you stuff up, when it isn’t perfect, when you shoot high and miss the target.

Think about it logically. If you tried something new, and got it perfectly right first time, what would you learn?

That you can do it once. Great!

Except that it never happens. Never. Because there it no such thing as perfectly right. So no matter how well you did, no matter how many people tell you how wonderful you were, you will know what was missing. You will know where you fell short. And if you actually believe that you did it perfectly, you are kidding yourself.

All those people who tell you how perfectly right you were ARE NOT lying! Because in their eyes you were. Perception. They got it, they enjoyed it, they learned something from it. So why don’t you?

When you accept your own fallibility, your own imperfection in the face of perfection, you dare to thrive in the present moment. You give yourself permission to stuff up, not because you want to, but because, in some tiny way, you probably will. And that is GREAT!!!

That is when you have taken the giant risk of sharing your humanity with your audience, of acknowledging in front of them – without making a big deal of it, just by doing it – that you are your authentic self with them. No masks, no pretence, just you, sharing your story, your ideas, your philosophy, your understanding.

Did I say this was easy? No. Because it isn’t. It’s terrifying to most of us, which is why audiences respond to it. They relate to the courage they perceive in front of them, they are drawn to you, they want to hear what you have to say. That’s their job, it’s why they are sitting out there in front of you.

It’s not your job to make them listen to you and then believe you. It’s your job to share your story, your ideas, your SELF as openly and as generously as you can. Trust your audience to use their own intelligence and imagination however they wish or need to. They will admire you for trusting them.

And now, I should probably check in with those online gurus who claim they can help me to write the perfect blog post. Apparently there is a Secret Formula!

First though, here’s a tip to help you deal with those nerves.

Breathe out.

Breathe out again.

Breathing out is good for you.

Wacky Noises Indeed!

St Joan of Philadelphia – gazing at the “Rocky” steps in front of the Museum of Art.

Since I’ve been back in Liverpool I’ve been busy developing an online course for Reluctant Public Speakers. I’d be interested to know if you have any concerns about public speaking, and if so, would you be willing to share them with me? Here is a short form where you can offer some suggestions and/or requests. For anyone who fills in the survey, I am happy to respond to your particular concerns. Just include your email at the end of the survey.

I’m delighted to report that the “Voice of the Clown” workshop at the Voice Foundation Annual Symposium – Care of the Professional Voice – in Philadelphia on 31st May was an absolute HOOT!

The room was, as expected, not as large as it could have been, but still, larger than most. It never ceases to amaze me how many music colleges have modest, if not tiny studio spaces which don’t encourage much physical movement. Still, we managed. We moved all the folding chairs to the end of the room behind the grand piano and the comfortable couches, took off our shoes and got stuck in.

After a fast and furious but thorough physical and vocal warmup, I invited 4 participants to explore the first exercise moving longways down the room (only room for 4 at a time!). Very quickly I sensed that this was going to be most frustrating for the ones waiting to take a turn, so I ‘bit the bullet’ and called on everyone to try it out together. And they did. It was Ira Seidenstein’s ‘Nothing’ Exercise, which is normally done moving in a straight line, consciously moving the arms to create a shape in the air in front of the body, but in these circumstances the two dozen or so participants managed to weave in and out and around each other, never crashing into each other, choosing to stop, improvise, abandon, start again.

Then we tried it with the ‘Creative Twist’ which is ‘same but different’ (in Ira speak) and which culminates in improvised sounds arising from the physical impulse as one is moving with funny walks. Again, no crashing into each other, and most people quite happy to be engaged in their own personal physical, intellectual, emotional creative space – wherever that happened to be in the room at the time. I would say, much more than ‘quite happy’, there was a definite air of joy in the room by the time we finished. 50 minutes of focussed, energised, spontaneous creativity.

The Philadelphia Boys Choir performing at the Gala evening.