Get the Edge…with Vocal Energy!!

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Photo taken from Pinterest because let’s be honest it’s hilarious, and if we stretch, we could all use a little more inner child in our vocal energy.

Hello Friends!!

On the cusp of spring turning into summer we find ourselves at another time that’s often full of transitions. For some it’s graduations and the beginning of careers, for others it’s internships and summer jobs, still others are preparing to absorb and develop that new talent. Projects are picking up, people are moving in new directions. There may be presentations, interviews, auditions, and teleconferences to contend with. In the spirit of all this, including the feelings of renewal and energy that the spring and summer bring, we wanted to plant the intention to find ways of imbuing your voice with that responsive and present energy. It can make all the difference.

In our work, which encompasses the vocal demands mentioned above, there is a sadness (and often a frustration) around the cut off potential of a de-energized voice. Not to say we both haven’t been there. It’s a terrible feeling when you’re in a tense environment with your throat feeling strangled and catching on words with cracks in the voice. Often this is imagined on a large scale with presentations and performances in front of a big audience. Today we ask you to consider the more intimate moments, like interviews, important phone calls, and team presentations. In these situations the unity of energized communication with the information being conveyed is invaluable, and done consistently, may provide a whole new range of opportunities.

To be clear, we don’t advocate skimming substance and expecting to get by on glibness. Know your stuff and do your prep work! From observation though, there are too many occasions where people’s nervousness interferes with their vocal energy and there’s a flatness that strips the vibrancy of their content. Sometimes there’s over compensation instead, but the de-energizing tendency is more common across the wider range of vocal pressure situations.

You deserve to embody your full energy and engagement in an important situation and your voice can be an invaluable asset in conveying that! So here are a few simple suggestions to remind you of this power before an important occasion.

-If you’re walking anywhere leading up to your occasion it is great to start by connecting breath with movement. I like to count ten steps on an inhale and then ten on an exhale. This will encourage sustained, supportive breath while you speak.

-Find somewhere private (bathrooms work pretty well) and take a few yawns with sound, an easy “ah” sound works well. Try to slide from the top of your voice down and from the bottom up.

-When you’re speaking see if it’s helpful to imagine your thoughts as beams of light (I like to picture mine as a nice golden beam). Send those beams to the person, or people, you’re talking to and imagine you need to sustain the energy of your message so that the beam can illuminate their face. The idea behind the metaphor is to maintain vocal energy all the way through each and every thought.

-Choose excitement over ennui. As a general observation, there can be a tendency to downplay knowledge, experience, and ideas in an attempt to “play it cool” or not convey emotion or not appear affected by the stakes of the situation. We are not advocating moving yourself to tears while discussing your skills, accomplishments, and insights, but be careful of the effects the ennui attitude can have on your voice. It can make you sound unenthusiastic and disinterested. And the concept of mirroring tells us that this can affect the people you’re interacting with. If you send messages of energetic enthusiasm people may well reciprocate that and recall energy and enthusiasm while thinking about YOU.

-Consider clothing. On important occasions we usually want to look our best, which is great. It’s helpful to bear in mind that when communication is a factor there may be a few helpful considerations: 1. Can you breathe comfortably? Wearing a super streamlined, restrictive piece of clothing may impact your ability to breathe and make sustaining vocal energy more of a challenge. Ideally opt for something that won’t overly restrictive. Especially around your shoulders, abdomen, lower belly, and hips.
2. Can you stand/walk/get a connection with the ground? Whether what you’re doing involves sitting, standing or more movement, consider your footwear. If you’re super comfortable in high heels that’s great, wear the pair you feel most grounded and powerful in. If you’re not a heels person, maybe stick with that instinct. Where heels aren’t involved avoid shoes that pinch and squeeze. Impeding your ability to connect with solid ground is another way to literally (and metaphorically) throw yourself off balance. 3. Just a little positive energy tip, wear at least one thing that makes you feel fantastic. Whether it’s a clothing item, accessory, something no one will see, or a spritz of perfume, give yourself that secret extra boost.

Hopefully these vocal energy tips have given you some good food for thought. Let us know if you have anything to add or any feedback. We wish all the best to those celebrating milestones themselves or supporting the milestones of friends, family and loved ones.

Take Good Care,

Lindsay and Christine

Find your Ground! Connecting to Vocal Authority

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Hey Friends,

If you have ever been told that you don’t sound authoritative enough, or that you aren’t grounded enough, then this sequence is for you. This week, we explore finding an authoritative sound that feels authentic to you and helps you connect on a deeper level to what you are saying. It’s good for public speakers who want to convey their message with credibility and for actors (or anyone!)  who feel like their emotions cause them to constrict and lose their ground.

On another note, this week is BeSpoke’s birthday! March 8th will be our 1st anniversary of having a live site. Help us celebrate– comment below and let us know what your favorite post has been in the last year! We would also love to hear from you if there is something you would like us to cover.

So let’s all say together (authoritatively!)… Happy birthday BeSpoke!!!!!

Take good care,

Christine & Lindsay

Open Your Heart! (Be our communication Valentines?)

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Hello Friends, 

So it’s mid-February, the Valentine’s Day displays are upon on us. They’re cheesy, some of them are fun, some of them makes us deeply frustrated with society, but at the very least it’s possible to find good deals on wine and chocolate regardless of your celebration inclinations.  We both like to be a bit “light-hearted,” if you will, (sorry I can’t help myself) about the holiday, so we thought let’s make a self-love sequence that focuses on keeping the heart open, literally and metaphorically.

Extremes in the chest impede our ability to breathe with ease and support. Collapse through rounded shoulders or forcing the chest forward through shoulders pressed back leaves the body vulnerable to tension and sends a consistent message of stress. Whatever your stance is on the metaphorical concept of an open heart, the physical situation bears on our ability to access our thoughts and feelings with clarity and presence. So grab an empowered, upright seat and take the time to give your heart some love this Valentine’s Day. That’s all we ask from our communication Valentines.

Let us know how it goes and remember:

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” -Oscar Wilde

Lots of Love,

Lindsay and Christine

The Clock: For Abdominal Release

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Hi Friends,

This week we’re offering a Shiatsu abdominal self-massage called “The Clock, ” which was introduced to Christine by her teacher, Catherine Fitzmaurice. Shiatsu is a type of Japanese massage that uses acupressure. This is a great abdominal release sequence for those of you who feel like you often walk around holding your abs in– not so useful for deep breathing or connected, supported speaking. You can do this sequence any time, but it can be particularly useful after having done an ab workout. Remember, a fully flexible muscle is one that can fully engage and can fully release. If you are only working out your muscles, they are only fully engaging, so over time they will grow tighter and tighter and lose their flexibility. Release work is therefore a really important antidote to any workout– to keep those muscles nice and flexible.

So find a comfy spot, wear some nice loose clothing, and enjoy!

Please let us know how your experience with this goes. We want to hear from you!

Take good care,

Christine & Lindsay

Working the Balance: Listen and Be Heard

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Hello Friends!

What a week its been! First, the happiest news is that we were able to celebrate the rather wonderful birth of Christine, see below. Lindsay speaking for a moment: it was the brightest light being able to honor a dear friend who keeps my life full of laughter, love, lessons, hope,and of course quality food, and cocktails.

Now this was coupled with an inauguration, no secret if you read our post after the election, that we are deeply troubled by. However, it is our conviction not to be silenced by fear but to be courageous and stand with those who would progress equal rights,confront the battles of social justice, champion diversity, and address climate change.

The Women’s March on London was a fantastic place to start. It was filled with humor and passion, and the most AMAZING samba band to keep us going through packed streets and a delayed start due to the sheer numbers inundating Grosvenor square. In the intensity of this temporary community, brought together to be heard and show solidarity, it was striking how much listening there was to be done, from absorbing signs which covered subjects ranging from feminism to LGBTQIA to refugees to Black Lives Matter, to Climate Change, then there were the chants, and the conversations, and the simple directives that allowed the march to maintain its peaceful organization. There was something deeply moving about standing in the midst of these varied, yet aligned messages and feeling the energy of collective communication.

Communication and our choices around it will be a deeply impactful part of shaping the political climate and agenda as we move forward. Sometimes it will be a wonderful way to share and connect. Sometimes it will be much more challenging. We advocate basking in the connections and rising to the challenges wherever and whenever you’re able to. Maybe that’s in artistic expression, maybe it means being braver in your communication in everyday life. To be clear, this courageous expression needs to involve the balance of listening and being heard. Listening to understand, and not purely react, is no easy feat. Especially when what we’re hearing makes us uncomfortable. Responding from that place makes us more susceptible to losing our intention and dilutes the point we wanted to make. All this leads to to a scenario where neither party hears anything from the other.

We would like to encourage a communication practice that works to allow the most productive conversations possible. It is our hope that coming from a place of grounding and clarity may pave the way for understanding each other better. We also hope it will make those we’re speaking to more receptive, although depending on where they’re coming from this may be deeply challenging. Even if that is so, better to know we tried with integrity to build a bridge, rather than impose a wall.

Here are a few simple techniques we hope will serve you in that goal:

  • Establish the intention of this conversation for yourself. Be clear about what you are trying to understand through listening and the points you want to make by speaking.
  • Breathe to the person/people you’re speaking to. It may sound strange but try to direct you’re breathing toward them. The aim is to allow your abdominals to relax and take a full breath, if those you’re speaking to mirror you they will also be taking deeper breaths. Deep breathing combats stress hormones and will allow your thinking to remain clear.
  • Find your feet on the ground. Whether standing or sitting, actively feel your feet making contact with the surface beneath you. It’s a great reminder to be present in the moment and a literal way to “stand your ground.”
  • Notice any tension occurring in your body, especially in the face, neck, and shoulders. Try breathing to these places with the aim of allowing them to soften. Recognize this is a sign of defensiveness that may be unconsciously mirrored by the person/people you’re speaking to.

We recognize sometimes it’s necessary to be defensive to extricate yourself from a threatening situation, please be mindful and safe.

Let us know how it goes, good luck and stay present in listening and speech!

With Love,

Lindsay and Christine

 

 

 

 

Find Your Ground: Foot Massage Sequence

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Hey friends!

This is a joyous time of year, but the busyness of the holiday season can often feel a bit de-stablizing. This is a massage sequence to help you find your ground again. When you’re standing up, a good way to find your ground is to feel where your feet connect with the floor. You have three points of contact between your feet and the floor: the ball joint of the big toe, the ball joint of the little toe, and the heel. Together, they are shaped like a ‘tripod’, and balancing your weight across this tripod brings a sense of grounding that can help you stay present in the moment. Being grounded helps you breathe easier, which makes it easier to speak fluidly and clearly.

You can bring your awareness to your tripods anytime, but sometimes a little massage to that area can help increase your awareness and sensation in that area. And it just feels good! So give this a try, especially before a speech, show, Christmas pantomime, or hey, maybe even before a holiday party where you’ll be doing a lot of standing and talking. Let us know how it goes!

Take good care,

Christine and Lindsay

Managing Nerves: The Moment Before

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My cat, Sadie. I think this photo perfectly captures what so many of us feel like the moment before a performance or presentation! 

Hi Friends,

We have many posts on the site that help you warm up and prepare ahead of a performance or a presentation, but what about that moment right before you get up to speak? That moment, while you are waiting, is often nerve-wracking. This is a short sequence that coaches you through where to place your focus in that moment before, allowing you to stay present, rather than in another world thinking about how nervous you are. You can listen to it ahead of time and then keep the sequence in mind whenever you are in ‘the moment before’. The sequence is very simple but very effective!

Let us know how it goes. Sadie the cat wants to know!

Take good care,

Christine and Lindsay

Stress Bustin’ Breathing and Snazzy Sighing!

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Illustration from Madison Cavanaugh’s The One Minute Cure

Hello Friends!

I hope your October is ending well, and if you’re into Halloween that you’re getting ready for some spooky fun. This week’s sequence might awaken your inner ghost with some sighing or simply afford a bit of tranquility with attention to the breath.

Let us know how you get on and if you find this helpful in bringing you to a happy place!

Take Good Care,

Lindsay and Christine

 

 

 

 

Connect to Your Thought: Mindfulness Exercise for Sight-Reading and Speaking With Notes

 

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Hello Friends!

Happy October, it’s pumpkin time! This is the second part of our series on working with text and notes. We’ve put together a mindfulness exercise that aims to help you connect your breath to thought with the context of an important event or to simply get you in the headspace for practicing.

Everything starts to ramp up this time of year so please let us know in the comments if there’s anything you feel would be beneficial! And please give us any feedback you have on this exercise!

Take Good Care,

Lindsay and Christine

 

Autumn Voice Review: Just Breathe!

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Me and Mom on the beach, just before the 2nd gallop.

Hello Friends!

We’ll be putting together an audiolab exercise for breath work as part of this series but in the meantime I thought I’d share a recent experience that reminded me how important the simple act of breathing is in any intense situation.

Now, of course working with the breath is a piece of advice Christine and I give a lot, in many different contexts. However there’s nothing like a visceral moment of experience to prevent advice from going stale. In traditional communication settings, working with the breath is part of my routine and at this point it flows pretty well. During this most recent experience I found myself needing my breath to affirm presence and keep my head clear, as you do in standard communication activities, but the situation was unique in that failing to do so could have ended with me being launched off a horse and into the ocean.

In my Olympian post a few weeks ago I touched on my past experience as a member of the United States Pony Club, which I absolutely loved. Being around horses and riding are among the things that make me the happiest in this world. So while spending some time with family in Scotland this past week my mom and I decided to look into doing a ride on the beach. We found a lovely equestrian center that was able to book us in and headed over for an early evening ride. It was exactly the kind of place I like, down to earth; we got to brush our horses and our guide Ed, was hilarious and no-nonsense. My mom was assigned a very noble steed named Snowy and I rode Ed’s beautiful chestnut mare called Charm. As we headed into the scenic Scottish countryside Ed put us through a few tests, trotting and cantering, evidently we passed because what followed was two hours of the most intense riding I had done in YEARS. Important note about my mom, it had been even longer since she’d ridden like this and she handled it like a champion.

When I say intense what I’m specifically talking about is galloping, which for those of you unfamiliar with riding, is the fastest gait of a horse where all four feet come off the ground together with each forward movement. It’s thrilling, challenging, and something I hadn’t done in quite a while. We galloped through the forests, through golden fields and finally across the beach. It was during a walking break on the beach that I realized although I was having fun and being amazed by the scenery, I was breathing in this shallow, protective way. Charm wanted to go (she is very fast) and I was fighting her because I was afraid to fully release into the moment and be there. This was not the kind of rider I had been in my younger days. In fact I can’t really ever remember feeling timid when it came to racing through fields until that moment. So I thought, this is a communication issue. If I can let my breath drop and feel grounded to connect with Charm, I can be present and let go of the fear to fully enjoy this exceptional experience. This was critical point because Ed had told us the horses go even faster when they turn to head back down the beach, it was hard to imagine that but would have been far more foolish to not take that information seriously. So I put my heels down (riderspeak), took a long, steady breath in through my nose, picked up my reins and seemed to feel Charm say “Buckle-up Buttercup!”

It was a fantastic gallop down the beach. If any of you are Lord of the Rings fans, I’ll put it like this: it was like I was a full-on Rider of Rohan with the strings music blasting in the background as I charged to save Middle Earth. The feelings of freedom and exhilaration were intoxicating. The ride was easily one of the best in my life and I was able to enjoy it because I got myself to breathe with connection.

All this is to say, autumn is a time of returning to endeavors, starting something new, gearing up for hard work, it’s a time of transition. Don’t breathe shallowly through it; find your breath and your pace. Maybe even try a gallop! You might surprise yourself.

Take Good Care,

Lindsay and Christine