Voice Coaching, Presentation Skills and Building Confidence
Mr Peter Watkins – Blue Penguin Chartered Accountants
I’m a Chartered Accountant, and when I moved from the comfort of employment to running my own firm, things changed. Not only have I joined the dreaded circle of networking events, I knew I had to get noticed in smaller meetings of people with competing agendas.
My voice wasn’t strong enough and just wasn’t getting across. It’s not that I was afraid of speaking but I was so quiet that people often didn’t realise I’d actually started talking! When I heard other people’s voices cut through the room easily, I knew it must be possible!
Gerald’s coaching actually started off as a sort of counselling session, trying to understand why I spoke the way I did. We realised it was my mindset as much as my lungs which held me back. Over the course of about five sessions, I’ve gained the ability to speak more confidently in front of strangers. I won’t be volunteering to do any Best Man speeches just yet, but I now feel comfortable that my voice will cut across a room of 40 delegates at a networking event.
Voice coaching, like counselling, seems to have a bit of a stigma attached to it. Until a friend suggested it, I didn’t even know it was a profession. But I’m glad I took the time to work with Gerald at this early stage in my business, and would recommend it to anyone.
Curate- Exeter Diocese
A large part of my job involves public speaking and so I wanted to invest some time in improving my communication. While I felt that my communication skills were okay I knew there were certain areas which I needed to work on but was unsure how to improve them. The sessions were relaxed and involved a mixture of breathing techniques, muscle strengthening and diction exercises. I have particularly valued the way I have been given exercises to go away with and practice. A number of people have commentated on an improvement in diction. I would recommend voice coaching as it has given me tools to work with in improving effective communication.
Veterinary Surgeon, Exeter
My boss first approached Gerald about me having voice coaching because I lacked confidence which I found reflected in my speech. I would often mumble and I am naturally very quietly spoken. My boss felt having voice coaching would help to improve my confidence and communication skills with clients and colleagues. I was a bit dubious at first as this was a very new experience and I felt very self-conscious, however Gerald made me feel very comfortable and it wasn’t long before I felt able to be myself with Gerald.
I had four sessions in total, just after my last session I had to deliver a 30 minute presentation to 30 clients which went really well! I don’t think I could have done this before I met Gerald. It gave me a massive confidence boost, and I still think about the new skills he taught me on a regular basis so voice coaching has definitely had a positive effect on my life. I would recommend Gerald to anyone, especially those feeling worried about taking the first big step to making a change, as Gerald will make you feel very at ease.
Executive Director of non-governmental organisation, Plymouth
I had always known that I needed to work on my voice projection, for professional as well as personal reasons. But the main trigger for me to seek help was my recent promotion to Executive Director of my organisation, and knowing that I would need to make a strong impression at the first annual meeting where I was going to be “under the spotlight”. Coincidentally, I was also invited to give a public lecture around 2 months before the annual meeting that I wanted to prepare for, so that served as a starting point for working on various techniques.
The first (2h) session was very useful to cover various breathing techniques and speech exercises, and also to receive general feedback and become more aware of some habits and characteristics that are very much embedded in the way I speak and come across. The second (2h) session was spent going through a presentation I had prepared in Powerpoint for a public lecture I was going to give. Gerald gave some very useful feedback on both the slides and the way I was going to deliver the information, as well as general advice about how to be as well prepared as possible for the presentation. The third (1h30) session was spent returning to the breathing and other exercises, which was really useful as it showed how I had progressed since the first session, just by practicing intermittently at home. For the fourth (1h30) session we went through the text I had prepared for my “vision statement” as incoming Executive Director. Again, Gerald provided some really valuable feedback on how to make the statement stronger, more positive and more effective.
All four sessions were really useful for me because they have made me much more aware of my voice and taught me ways in which I can improve it. The feedback on my presentations (preparation and delivery) was also very helpful, which I had not really expected to get when I was first looking for voice coaching. Gerald has a varied background/experience, which means he can provide insights and advice on a range of topics related to presentation skills. I also felt very relaxed and had fun during the sessions, which is really important as this type of training can seem very daunting at first. Although it will take a lot of work and experience to really improve, I feel that the few sessions I had really made a difference to both presentations I made, and I feel better equipped to deal with future ones. I really hope to be able to return for some more voice coaching in the near future.
Business Proprietor: Devon
Update: End-of year appraisal comments from line managers for Executive Director above:
“Her training courses have paid off dividends and we saw a confident and eloquent leader handling herself with aplomb in the face of mighty reputations.” – Director
“She has benefited enormously from the two courses on presentation delivery and public speaking. Her presentations have always been visually good, but now they are concise and assertive too.” – Former Chairman
Thank you for your help, encouragement and instruction last week. My reading went very well. I managed to control my breathing as you had taught, I took my time and paused a little in places, and also managed to look up at the bride & groom three times! They loved it. About a dozen people told me that it was a very good reading. My husband also said that I had done a really good job. Nice speed, clear and great to have looked at the happy couple and made it theirs. Thank you for enabling me to give the gift of a reading to my lovely niece and for helping me to overcome a major fear.
Engineering Trainer: Devon
For the past forty years I have looked after Engineering apprentices , this entailed many hours of talking in noisy enviroments. During the past few years I have experienced some loss of voice and an irritating cough which the medical profession put down to asthma with its usual inhalers. Earlier this year I lost my voice for about six weeks , so in total desperation I decided to see if a voice coach could help . To my amazement after one session with Gerald where he taught me to breath correctly, and gave me some simple vocal exercises, my voice has returned and I feel that I now have control over the problem.
PhD Researcher at University of Exeter
I just wanted to let you know my talk went very well last week. My supervisor saw it and has said on several occasions that it was excellent, so I’m pretty happy with that! Thank you also for the help you gave me with the preparation of the material and the most recent edits you suggested – they really helped on those tricky slides. So all in all a rare positive experience for presenting, which has definitely helped reduce my phobia of it. Thanks again, I wouldn’t have done so well without your help.
Georgia Borne, Age 19, Paignton/Devon - Monologue/technique training
I came to Gerald’s lessons to have some one on one training for my audition speeches for drama schools that I would be trying out for the following year, in the hope of gaining a better understanding of texts, both contemporary and classical, to use this understanding to then deliver the texts in the appropriate way in response to this.
From attending Gerald’s lessons I not only focused on monologues, but also had training to develop my breathing techniques and pronunciation. I had not learnt any of these exercises before and found them difficult at first but after practice I found they aided me in my delivery of a text. For example, Shakespeare tends to have very long sentences and precise punctuation, being able to take a good breath and control this throughout so that the sentence is finished correctly and no breaths are taken mid way thorough is important. That is something I never knew until being taught so by Gerald and the importance of this. Gerald also spent a much needed amount of time going through the Shakespeare texts line by line so that I had a strong understanding of what each sentence actually meant, which is important when performing a monologue. I leave each lesson exhausted (Which is how you should feel after working intensely on a practice you love!) but so thrilled with how much I have learnt and grown within just an hour and a half lesson, as Gerald manages to teach so much and share so much with me in this short amount of time. These one on one sessions with Gerald are so helpful in giving me confidence and the right techniques to help me attempt any new work I am given using the set of skills Gerald has aided me with.
I would definitely recommend Gerald to any young people looking for some guidance with Shakespeare and modern texts or for technique training lessons for breathing and pronunciation. Gerald is also very generous in lending his students any plays/monologues that they wish to look into which is very helpful when wanting to expand your knowledge and are browsing for new material! I continue to be excited after each lesson as I feel confident that I have gained more knowledge and a better sense of understanding of the texts I am doing and hence why I will continue to visit Gerald in the future for any top up lessons!
I am currently in my 2nd year of auditioning for drama schools at age 19 and have recall auditions for LIPA (Liverpool institute of performing arts) and BSA (Birmingham school of acting), I don’t think I would be where I am in my training if it wasn’t for Gerald!
Just emailing to say that I have been successful at my last and final audition of this year at the Drama Studio London. I will be starting their 3 year BA honour degree course in September!!! I am so excited and so glad my hard work has paid off, I would like to thank you again for all your help and guidance.
Ladies Golf Captain; Devon
I just wanted to let you know how I got on yesterday. I managed to stay calm on the day and although I had to read most of my speech I certainly carried it off in a far better manner. The resolution was amended and so we had plenty of ladies giving their views, but I did manage to control them! In the end I had to call for a 5 minute break so we could discuss what to do so quite a baptism of fire. People say that I did well and I am pleased with my performance! Would not like too many like that though. Very many thanks for all your help I think now I just have several speeches thanking the green keepers and caterers, far more manageable.
University Administrator; Exeter
Following your coaching sessions in the summer, I just wanted to write to let you know that I have since given a couple of presentations at work. I am still far from the world’s best speaker but I think I am slowly making improvements based on your sound practical and mental advice. Also, much more fun, the exercises which we did with the piano and your comments spurred me on to look for a choir. I found a friendly choir with no auditions. The choir master is great and teaches us lots of voice exercises. The singing is good for general voice practice as well as, to use your words, being a joyous thing. I was reminded to write to you as last week I took part in the Christmas concert. It has been literally years since I attempted to do anything on a stage in front of lots of people but I really enjoyed the whole thing. So thanks you very much for your help and inspiration!
Trainee Teacher; Exeter
As a trainee teacher, I was finding it hard to keep the class interested and engaged in my lessons. Gerald assessed my speaking and quickly introduced me to some exercises which would help me project and vary the intonation of my voice. The exercises were short and simple and have provided me with the means to control my voice and use it as an effective tool in the classroom.
Trainee Hypnotherapist; Brixham
As a trainee Hypnotherapist I spend a lot of time talking and believe it vitally important to be able to narrate smoothly without annoying accent twangs and lazy diction. With a great deal of patience, understanding and fun Gerald is successfully helping to re-tune my speech. With each week I improve so does my confidence. Thank you Gerald!
Finance Director; Paignton
I am a finance director and business owner. In recent months I had lost my confidence in Public speaking, Gerald Cox, assessed my skills, identified where I need to improve in such a way to rebuild my confidence. He coached me on how to speak over the phone and in front of groups of people. I found this instruction very beneficial.
Special Educational Needs Coordinator in a Secondary School
As a newly appointed SENCO I was set the task of running a presentation on my first day at the College. I felt very anxious, knowing that first impressions count. The only way was to fully embrace the opportunity and get expert help. I was very lucky to find Gerald who worked with me on my voice and breathing and made sure the content was spot on, helping me focus on the task in a way that no amount of rehearsing in front of the mirror would have achieved.
The presentation went really well. I felt myself getting a little breathless at the beginning, so I paused, took a sip of water and an electric silence filled the room! I then carried on and it all began to flow. The feedback I got was really positive about the content. The evaluations (anonymous) were almost all ‘very useful’ and a few ‘useful’. The head teacher and a leadership team member complemented me and there were lots of positive comments from the staff in general.
I feel I have definitely fulfilled my objective of doing myself justice on the day and presenting myself as up to the role of SENCO. Gerald helped me get me to this point through tireless analysis of the content and a ‘supportive but analytical’ approach to rehearsals. Thank you Gerald.
Assistant Chief Executive, Devon charity
The work with Gerald has helped me greatly with my skills in delivering formal presentations, which was my primary reason for taking part. But, more fundamentally, it has also enabled me to rethink the way that I speak and present myself in many other areas of my life – both professionally and personally. I feel that Gerald has given me the ‘tools’ to keep on improving and learning.
University Lecturer, Exeter
Gerald Cox has helped me make significant improvements to my public speaking. Working with him has been great fun. I am now a far more effective lecturer. My audiences have certainly noticed the difference: feedback is overwhelmingly positive.
Managing Director, Building Contractors
Gerald made the whole experience of having to speak in public a positive experience. I suffer with nerves at the thought of speaking to a large audience and Gerald gave me the tools to not only stay calm and clear but have the confidence to know that I can do it. His teaching methods are good fun, work well and even helped me learn my speech.
SR, Businessman, South Devon
The spoken word and the art of communication are very powerful tools, regardless of who you are or what you do. It is something that I have been aware of all my life but had done nothing about and have often admired those who have the ‘gift’. I had no interest in speaking ‘The Queen’s English’ but had the desire to perfect and deliver clear, pleasing and powerful speech. I am in my late 40s and a successful businessman in South Devon who regularly delivers talks to groups. Confidence has never been an issue with me but I knew my day to day speech could be improved. Working with Gerald this year has been a pleasure. He has challenged me and given me the ‘tools’ and knowledge to achieve my goals. I still have a way to go and look forward to continuing working with Gerald. That ‘gift’ is achievable by anyone if you have the desire. I recommend Gerald Cox to you.
Channel Development Manager
Over the last few months I had noticed my voice cracking and failing, especially when in difficult situations. Gerald Cox used a variety of exercises to test my voice and isolate the problem. He then provided the tools to enable me to correct it. With Gerald’s help I now know how to control my breathing and my diction in order to be clearly understood at all times.
Drama Teacher, Devon
Gerald Was very helpful and supportive when I had to prepare a speech. He greatly increased my confidence and ability to talk in public. I felt very well prepared for the occasion.
Political Activist, Devon
Having been to see Gerald Cox for two sets of 8 week sessions I was amazed at how the lessons he taught me stuck with me in my subconscious. The lessons gave me the confidence to stand up in public and make my point heard in a friendly and persuasive manner. The benefits of his lessons have reached far beyond my professional life into my Sporting and Musical activities.
John – Principal Environmental Consultant, Devon
Having been conscious for some years that I was not articulating myself as well as I might and being called upon more often to make presentations as part of my job, I finally decided to seek voice coaching. Gerald was immediately able to ascertain the problem and taught some excellent techniques on how to improve all areas of my speech. Definitely recommended to anyone who recognises the importance of speech and would like to improve their communication skills.