Today, we are in conversation with Caroline Goyder, author of Find Your Voice: The Secret to Talking with Confidence in Any Situation (Penguin Random House UK, Jan. 30, 2020).
Caroline Goyder has an international reputation as an expert speaker and trainer with senior management within organizations as well as private individuals. She worked for many years at London’s Royal Central School of Speech and Drama as a voice coach before launching her own company. She is regularly sought out by the media, and her extremely successful Ted Talk has had over 7.5 million viewers.
Tell me about yourself. In what way has your personal life impressed upon your writing?
I’m a voice coach and author, and it’s fair to say I’ve learned my trade the hard way. We teach what we need. Seared into my brain is the memory of a stage in a huge hall where I went badly wrong in front of a thousand people. I vowed afterward that I’d never speak on stage again. It took me a while to rebuild my confidence. It still makes me cringe to think about it now. And having gone on to speak professionally, to train leaders globally to find their voices, I know that these moments of public speaking shame and anxiety can be overcome.
How correlated are my confidence and my voice?
In a world where speaking is our primary mode of connection, confidence, and voice are intricately connected. When we find our voices, we find our confidence. When I’m speaking to large audiences and ask who has experienced a deficit of confidence as a speaker, it’s normal for most hands to go up. Even the seemingly confident people will tell you that they feel deeply vulnerable when speaking to an audience, or a camera, or a microphone.
But I want everyone to understand that confidence is a muscle, not a birthright. We can all build confidence if we practice good habits. It’s my belief that all the skills you need lie within you. Your voice will find its natural power when you find your strong spine — when you own the space within your body and own your space in the world. And power is where we’re going next because, with your calm center, your strong back is all about the grounded, embodied power you can find in your voice.
For example, in my TEDx Talk, I used Big TED — figuratively speaking, my large chest of drawers shaped like a man’s torso. Big TED accompanied me onstage to perfectly represent the idea that within me, I have everything I need to embody confidence. Open the drawers in yourself and you’ll find your voice and your confidence as a speaker.
Your new book, Find Your Voice: The Secret to Talking with Confidence in Any Situation, has come out at a time when people are struggling to get their voice heard in virtual settings. Where do you think the “struggle” is?
It’s a very particular challenge in that we’re at home in our personal, safe space, yet also broadcasting to our work colleagues and possibly to very large audiences through webinars. We’re highly visible and judged in the very place we connect with downtime.
I call these challenges of the virtual age the “4 Ps:” platforms, pressure, practice (lack of), paranoia. We have the platforms that bring great professional opportunity for all of us if we ace them. But they can bring performance pressure. The age of video conferencing is a Golden Age of opportunity for you to make your voice heard, but only if that voice doesn’t wobble when you press record.
To the platforms and this pressure, we can also add a lack of practice when it comes to using our voices. If you’ve had a morning of emailing and haven’t been using your voice or haven’t had time to practice aloud the words you need to say on your video conference or webinar, you’re bound to experience anxiety. When pressure meets a lack of practice, it creates paranoia. Your heart rate rises, you get speedy, you rush or you become flustered. Or worse, you go blank. The good news is that, with a little awareness, this is all infinitely avoidable.
Will the techniques in Find Your Voice work for people with a fear of public speaking and anxiety? What other resources do you recommend to such people?
This might surprise you, but I would ban the expression “public speaking.” It makes something perfectly normal to you — speaking, chatting — sound highly unnatural and worrying. Words have power and I want you to feel that speaking in front of an audience is just another part of the speaking you do every day. We don’t say “public dancing,” “public playing” or “public singing” do we? Let’s not put public speaking on a pedestal or worse behind a lectern.
Speaking in the spotlight doesn’t need to stress you out. In fact, the opposite can be true: it can actually calm you down. You just have to learn to harness your mind–body–voice as a speaker.
What I recommend is practice. First, always rehearse spoken content by speaking. Saying it prepares you for speaking in front of your audience. Record yourself and listen back — it’s the best way to become your own coach. The voice notes app on your phone is perfect for this. Listen back and notice what you want to tweak. Record yourself again and notice how it’s changed. Do this until you have real confidence when you speak. If you want to take it a step further, work with a voice coach or sign up for toastmasters or a public speaking course.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just recorded the audiobook of Find Your Voice. It was a lot of fun and a great way to practice what you preach as a voice coach. I’m now embarking on the creation of a video masterclass to share skills for speaking with confidence and gravitas to a much wider audience than I can reach in person.
I believe in the digital age there is more reason than ever before to find your voice, and when you do it will enable you to speak up and stand out for your calm, control and confidence.
To learn more, visit www.carolinegoyder.com, or find her across social media: @Carolinegoyder.