Friday, February 26, 2010

Remember Your Chest Voice

Does your voice jump an octave when your nervous?

You're not alone.

In this week's Slate magazine, Katherine Meizel analyzes why this week's American Idol singers were unable to hit their low notes:

It's not that they don't have the range, though; it's about the first-performance jitters. If you're anxious, the increased energy that higher pitches require—though they're more intimidating psychologically—can sometimes allow you to power your way through the nerves, but the more relaxed lower range you find at the beginnings of pop ballads becomes a stage fright minefield. Think about holding a rubber band when your hands are shaking: When you pull it taut, the intensified contraction of your muscles makes the quaver less noticeable; when the rubber band is slack, it trembles violently with your hands.

Maizel points to several of the performances including Ashley Lewis' cover of Leona Lewis' Happy:

Women in particular, tend to react to nerves by speaking higher than normal and using their head voice. This can make us sound less authoritative.

One way to combat this is to practice speaking in your chest voice in everyday conversation.

Then when it's time to get up to speak, your voice will more naturally modulate to the lower registers.

Likewise, men have an opposite tendency to stay in the lower range when speaking and can also practice varying pitch in casual conversations or even when reading books to children.

From the Green Room: Practice varying the pitch of your voice. The more you practice experiment with the different ranges of your voice, the less likely you are to jump an octave when you're nervous.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lindsey Vonn and the Power of Emotion

The Olympics is a great reminder of the power of emotion. While it is the athletics that impresses us, it is the stories and emotions that move us - and that ultimately stay with us.

Watch (or rewatch) Lindsey Vonn's reaction to her first gold medal on Wednesday.

Ultimately it is her outpouring of feeling that makes this moment so memorable.

This seems obvious in the context of the Olympics, but is a good reminder for any time you are trying to connect with an audience. Find the emotion. You can have the most powerful content in the world - but if you fail to tap into people's feelings, your message will not stick.

From the Green Room: People will remember most how they felt when they listen to you. Take time to identify the emotions you want to express to your audience. After all, emotions are contagious. If you feel inspired when you speak, so will your audience.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Find Your Green Room Trigger

How do Olympic athletes train their minds for the challenges of such intense competition? Turns out, they work with a "mental coach."

In a 2/10 article on, "Mind Games: Making Olympians Mentally Fit," Howard Berkes writes about short track speedskater Katherine Reutter's struggle to overcome insecurity and anxiety.

She turned to Nicole Detting Miller, University of Utah sports psychologist:

...Miller helped Reutter relieve the pressure of Olympic competition by focusing on something that already defines her success. For Reutter, that event actually occurred off the ice, on a mountain slope outside Vancouver, where Reutter and her teammates struggled with an endurance exercise.

"It's so steep, it's so hard, that you can't run it," Reutter says. "You have to, like, lunge up it."

The men on the team had to climb the steep slope twice. Reutter was the only woman to join them on a second attempt. She started five minutes behind the men but beat two of them to the finish.

"I will be proud of that moment for my whole life," Reutter says. "And I never would have known what a huge accomplishment it was if Nicole hadn't forced me to realize it."

That strong sense of success applies to Reutter's upcoming Olympic experience.

"I know that even if I didn't win, I put in enough work that I could've won," Reutter says. "I will always be proud that even when it looks like I can't, even when I feel like I can't, I'm always willing to push a little harder just to see if maybe I can."

At Green Room Speakers, I call this finding your Green Room Trigger.

I can teach you how to identify a past success - a zone moment - and use it as a trigger each time before getting up to speak.

Over time, you will begin to asssociate speaking with that feeling of success and self-actualization.

From the Green Room: Speaking anxiety often stems from negative triggers, such as thinking about a past speaking or performance experience that didn't go so well. The Green Room Trigger helps you break that negative thought pattern and focuses you, instead, on your best self.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Drew Brees: Clarity of Purpose

Watch Saints' quarterback Drew Brees' MVP conference interview on

During his opening statement, Brees says:

Our victory last night was the culmination of four years of hard work, fighting through a lot of adversity, ups and downs, and more importantly than that, representing a city that has been through so much – been through so many struggles and hardships.

Along the way, people have asked me so many times, ‘Do you look at it as a burden or extra pressure? You feel like you’re carrying the weight of the city on your team’s shoulders?’ I said, ‘No, not at all.’ We all look at it as responsibility. Our city, our fans give us strength. We owe this to them. That’s made all the difference.

Brees' eloquence and poise in this interview flow from his crystal clear sense of purpose and mission that he has had all along.

Speaking about his experience - and truly being able to capture the moment - then become effortless, as he knows exactly what his message is.

From the Green Room: Take time before you speak to clarify - in one sentence - what your purpose is. When you are able to fully own that purpose, everything flows from there.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Candidate Sam Arora: Getting Right to the Point

Watch this video of Sam Arora, who is running for Maryland House of Delegates (Montgomery County, District 19):

Arora starts off by saying, "Hi, I'm Sam Arora, and I'm at the intersection of Georgia Ave and Layhill Rd, just a couple miles from where I live in Silver Spring."

Often speakers waste time at the beginning establishing their credibility. By the time they get to their message, the audience has lost interest.

Arora gets right to the point. By physically placing himself at a busy intersection then identifying his street names as just a couple of blocks from his home, Arora wastes no time and instead accomplishes three things at once:

1. He demonstrates his credibility as a local.

2. He shows a willingness to get out on the streets.

3. He shows a visual example of the particular problem he is trying to solve.

Unfortunately, the traffic behind him is not actually all that heavy, but he nevertheless gets his point across!

From the Green Room: Don't waste time at the beginning of your speech with too much personal background information. State only what your audience needs to know in order to be able to make your message compelling and believable. Get right to the point.

Today marks the One-Year Anniversary of this blog. It has been a terrific year. Thank you to my readers!

Can You Dig It: Meeting Your Audience Where They Are

Watch this video by two candidates from Maryland's 6th district: Jordan Hadfield (State Senate) and Todd Crandell (House of Delegates):

Despite the poor quality of the video, the message is brilliant.

By offering to get out there and shovel citizens' walkways, Hadfield and Crandell demonstrate a willingness to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

What's more, they communicate a precise understanding of the fundmental physiological needs of the community at the present moment.

Shovels in hand, they turn the inconvenience and isolation of a blizzard into a powerful opportunity connect with voters.

From the Green Room: Before you speak to any audience, try to figure out what they need most at this very moment. Once you identify that need, figure out a way to address it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Steve Jobs and the Art of Leaving Things Out

Back in September, I wrote about Steve Jobs' ability to capture an audience through his passion.

Now I want to focus on his ability to capture an audience through his restraint.

In this Sunday's NYT Week in Review, Steve Lohr writes about Jobs' signature simplicity in Apple's products. Lohr writes that the products "cut through complexity by consciously leaving things out- not cramming every feature that came into an engineer's head, an affliction known as "featuritis" that burdens so many technology products."

"'A defining quality of Apple has been design restraint,' says Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster and and consultant in Silicon Valley."

Design restraint is at the core of Apple's success and should be at the core of your speech-writing process.

From the Green Room: When you craft a presentation, avoid "featuritis." Make conscious decisions to leave any information out that is not absolutely essential to your message.