Having spoken in 18 countries to 1000s of leaders for 17 years, Lucy Cornell has heard some stories. Intimate stories of voices. Everyone has a voice story. Why? Because we are human.
Your voice is your birthright. It is your way of expressing your internal world out to the public space. Your voice is your expression of power. And somewhere along the way anytime from nine months to now, as an adult, your power/voice will have been in the spotlight. Because power can be coveted, your voice may have been challenged, subjugated, dismissed or amplified, held highly or even glorified.
It is worth considering your voice story. The habits that come from these formative experiences are psychological, emotional, physical and vibrational. They travel with your voice and may not be supporting your ability to hold court and connect to your audience.
Let me tell you two of these stories:
I worked with Danielle who is a senior sales executive and is often pitching ideas in meetings to clients. Her issue was that while her content was strong, she was losing connection with her audience too quickly. In losing connection, she lost some of her credibility and position in the organisation.
I began our training sessions by asking her to deliver a business pitch to me as she would to a client.
I could see the issue: she was racing through the words, not breathing, not listening, not seeing, not being available to what her audience needed of her. So I asked her to bring some content to her next session that truly inspired her.
She arrived with the poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling. Do you know it?
Take a moment to read just these three stanzas as they are really useful thoughts in these uncertain times.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
As Danielle spoke it, tears welled up in her. I could see that there were undercurrents of meaning for her, but as she was rushing through it, she was missing the personal connections it had for her.
We spent some time on it so she could become more present with each moment of speaking. I also asked her to imagine she was speaking to herself as a little girl. And she had to change the last line to “you’ll be a woman, my dear.”
What occurred was an emotionally delicate and authentic delivery of a very personal experience, which she willingly and thoughtfully shared on her voice.
We were at once both connected to the message and the experience and were emotionally moved. We discussed why she habitually rushed through the words. She was concerned about taking up people’s time and that they might not be interested in what she had to say. Ironically, the rushing of the words was self-fulfilling.
Her job now was to bring that experience of speaking into her business communications: to be completely connected to what she was saying and the sentiment behind it, while being sensitive to the impact it was having on her clients and team.
She succeeded and reported back that her clients were more willing to listen to her and they interrupted her less. More importantly, she had the feeling she was being heard and valued more by the business.
Isn’t it fascinating that the slower and more authentically connected to what you are speaking, the more your audience connects to you and what you value in the world?
A few years ago, I worked with a group of very talented senior barristers at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. At the end of an intensive week practising advanced advocacy skills, they were to put them to use in a ‘mock trial’. Everyone was palpably nervous.
On that day, I had a brief interaction with a very skilled barrister from South Africa, who was standing in the corridor about to step into the ‘mock’ courtroom.
I asked him: “Are you nervous?”
He replied; “I am not nervous for myself but I have a deep respect for what I am about to do and what I need to say, and I want to do justice to that.”
His wisdom struck me.
Speaking publicly is about a deep respect for the spirit of the message, the people involved and the process you are in.
By removing himself from the equation, he was able to focus on the task at hand and channel his energy into the message and its impact. This helped him stay true to his preparation without slipping into the irrelevant chatter or defences of his own ego or the attachment to success.
By connecting to a deeper purpose and something that touches your spirit, (yes even at work) you will find firmer ground, inspired motivation and single-minded resolve when you step into the moment of speaking.
Now, more than ever, the world needs meaningful, responsible and ethical voices. Take your time, speak boldly and stay connected.
Lucy will be holding a virtual Insights session on Wednesday 29 April. Her session, How to speak with influence when working remotely will provide useful communication techniques amid our current virtual working world.
For a really valuable six hours of virtual voice content, snap up our Cornell Voice Online Masterclass here.
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