July 2nd Thursday :: Transform Your Vocal Presence

Speaker: Cynthia Zhai

Event review by Alexandra Touchaud

Frankly it is a shame you're reading this review. It would be far more dramatic if you could have listened to me reading it aloud - in a deep, authoritative voice, resonating with grave sincerity and calm confidence.

But the truth is that to hear such confident, Winston Churchill-like tones you may have had to give me a month whilst I practised - that's apparently how long Cynthia Zhai's clients typically take until they see (well, hear) "powerful vocal transformation".

As part of the Primetime Second Thursday Personal Development series Cynthia Zhai took the stage to present on "How to transform your vocal presence by developing a powerful voice". Given the size of the audience, it was clearly a topic of interest to many - across different cultural backgrounds, language skills, age and experience. Even the most senior professionals can find it a challenge to confidently speak in a crowd or present to a large audience, and it is apparently a problem that's especially significant for females (who have a higher pitch to start with). So when you throw in nerves and buzzing energy to a presentation situation it is clear why some voices become a tad too squeaky-high, or trembling and soft, or (in my own case) a garbled machine gun of enthusiasm, rooted in the somewhat exhilarating environment of fear-based excitement.

Cynthia Zhai is a Voice Coach, Speaker, Trainer and Author of the upcoming book “Influence through Voice” - and she is also petite. Surprisingly petite for the low, resonating voice she carries. She is her own best marketing tool, for as soon as she opens her mouth you understand her message: a powerful voice is inside ALL of us.

Her presentation was equally clear and tangible. Three easy steps to find this mythical inner voice of calm confidence:

RELAX and stand proud. It's a case of the body leading the brain: striking a confident pose raises testosterone, which in turn drives a mental feeling of power and confidence (echoing stories of the effectiveness of the shoulders back, chin up Fake it Till You Make It mind tricks).

BREATHE. How one breathes is incredibly important - the verdict is, the lower down the better. All the yoga and pilates so many of us do (spoken as a belly-breathing yoga teacher myself) is actually the perfect start to voice control. Cynthia extols that one must forget all this chest expanding, superficial shallow breathing and instead inhale deep down so the lungs fill up completely and the lower belly is pushed out. Then try panting like a dog. Seriously, try it. Inhale deeply right into your stomach, hold one hand on your belly and then press as you exhale with fast Kung fu / birthing/ panting-like breathes. Fast, fast, fast, sloooooooooow. (I did say at the beginning of this review that it would have been better had it been voiced aloud - certainly more entertaining!) Cynthia emphasised three additional points on breathing:
Practise always inhaling before you go to speak.
Always speak on an exhale (make it a habit to breath in before answering the phone, it will make for a more confident and deeply vibrating "hellloooooo".
Keep your balloon (lungs) inflated - in other words, never let yourself run out of air (apparently speaking whilst holding ones breath is common). Slow down to ensure generous breaths in and out.

RESONANCE. Once correct breathing is achieved the natural consequence is that one's pitch lowers, something to do with the vocal chords vibrating lower in the body, generating deeper tones. Clearly my scientific explanations are a tad lacking, but Cynthia guided us through an experiment that neatly proved the point: place one hand on the belly and one of the chest to dramatise 'resonance'; when you breath in the expanding lower belly should make one hand rise; then when breathing all the way out whilst hummmmming you feel the chest vibrating under the other hand - and any speech would have a deep resonating sound as it rumbled low over the vocal chords. Conversely, exhaling when one is doing 'normal' shallow breathing, produces vibrations that are felt higher up in your throat - and the vocal chords vibrate to produce a higher, squeakier tone. So keep practising humming low - think of it as embellishing shower skills.

This incredibly hands-on workshop caused a 2hour cacophony of collective "ah-ha'ing" in agreement, slightly embarrassingly deep moaning "mmmmmms" and enthusiastic practising of kung-fu-panting "ha ha ha'ing". The only males present were three poor barmen, they were fixated, watching the crazy crowd ( with a fascination half way between awe and terror); but they would surely have agreed with the collective viewpoint of the noisy professional women in the room that vocal transformation is indeed possible.

Within a month listen out in Singapore in boardrooms and on boardwalks to the booming beat of women leaders speaking with renewed conviction and confidence, commanding attention with their gravelly super power-voices. In the meantime I'm heading back to the shower.



About the Event

Transform Your Vocal Presence

Voice is not important. It is powerful

Voice means more than just working on your tone to make your words sound more interesting. The hidden power in your voice carries the potential to transform your life.

Voice is vibration and it is physical. When you tap into the physical side of your voice, you’ll start to understand its power and use its power to totally transform your vocal presence.

As a female professional, you may find yourself working hard to command attention from your male colleagues. You may also be concerned whether your ideas and insights are taken seriously or whether your message can get across. You may feel that your voice is too high-pitched or too soft and that in turn it takes a toll on your confidence. But it doesn’t matter: your vocal presence can be transformed.

At this month's 2nd Thursday meeting, you’ll discover how to tap into the hidden potential of your voice and experience the power that has been lying within you. You’ll learn the characteristics of a voice with strong presence and learn practical tools to develop a voice that commands attention, speaks with conviction and makes people take action.

What will you learn?

  • Voice as the power to transform lives through history
  • Where is the hidden potential in your voice?
  • Build up your vocal presence to sound more credible and authoritative
  • Improve your voice to sound composed under stress & nervousness
  • Develop a fuller & deeper voice that commands respect
  • Speak with passion & conviction to leave an impact

About the Speaker

Cynthia Zhai is a Voice Coach, Speaker, Trainer and Author of the upcoming book “Influence through Voice” published by McGraw Hill. Cynthia has worked with clients from 24 countries across 5 continents, including high-profile clients like Russian President Vladimir Putin’s simultaneous interpreter at the G8 Leaders Summit.

She has helped Senior Executives from MNCs and Government bodies with their voice and speeches to speak with impact and conviction, to engage and inspire people to embrace change and take action.

Cynthia’s experience, her professionalism and effectiveness has made tangible results for clients, not only in the way they project their influential and convincing voice, but in leading teams and negotiating with customers.

Cynthia has spoken to more than 5,000 audience members across industries, from the world’s top MNCs like Google Asia Pacific, HSBC Singapore, Procter & Gamble International Operations Southeast Asia Singapore Branch to Government bodies as the British High Commission Singapore and the Singapore Air Force. She has also appeared in Singapore Radio Program 938Live 3 times and Hong Kong Radio 3 as a guest speaker on Voice and Presentation.

This event took place on 9 July, 2015 at The Tanglin Club. To check out other PrimeTime events, please click here.

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