Negotiate Your Career Growth

How to Be a Badass Public Speaker with Vital Voice Training

June 12, 2024 Jamie Lee, Casey Erin Clark, Julie Fogh, Vital Voice Training Episode 65
How to Be a Badass Public Speaker with Vital Voice Training
Negotiate Your Career Growth
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Negotiate Your Career Growth
How to Be a Badass Public Speaker with Vital Voice Training
Jun 12, 2024 Episode 65
Jamie Lee, Casey Erin Clark, Julie Fogh, Vital Voice Training

Text me your thoughts on this episode!

As a woman, I've encountered contradicting feedback that my voice is both "too loud" and "too soft." I've felt the pressure to change, minimize, and silence my natural speaking voice because unconscious gender bias leads to more criticism, rather than amplification of women's voices. 

In this episode, my two guests -- Julie Fogh and Casey Erin Clark of Vital Voice Training -- celebrate a decade of helping leaders communicate with savvy, charisma, authenticity, and confidence by embracing, not changing, their voices. 

We revisit their journey from their first pitch to present at the Bullish Conference in Miami, in 2014 (where I also presented a negotiation workshop and met them for the first time), to their current mission of reshaping communication culture. 

Julie and Casey share their insights on how women's voices have evolved in the public sphere, countering critiques like vocal fry and upspeak, and how they’ve built a community grounded in the core values of service. 

You'll learn: 

  • How to use insights from acting training to uncover more authentic aspects of yourself for empowered self-expression
  • What genuinely builds the confidence to speak on a TEDx stage 
  • How to combat public speaking anxiety 
  • The surprising take on filler words like "ums" and "ahs" that will have you feeling relieved to speak as you do
  • How to approach the intersection of personal power and systemic/environmental factors, so you have greater agency over how you speak, especially if you're a woman and a person of marginalized identity 
  • How to have difficult conversations with an audience that lead to breakthroughs and what Julie and Casey offer to make it even easier 


Vital Voice Training is a voice, public speaking, and communication coaching company on a mission to change the conversation about what leaders are “supposed” to sound like, help organizations revolutionize their communication culture, and help individuals communicate with savvy, charisma, confidence, and a deep connection to their core values. For the client, the result is your voice: amplified (not just louder). 

Website: http://vitalvoicetraining.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/vital_voice, @vital_voice 

Instagram: http://instagram.com/vitalvoicetraining, @vitalvoicetraining 

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/vital-voice-training




Enjoy the show?

Connect with me

  • **You want to get promoted and better paid with best tools possible. That's what I offer inside my Executive Coaching Series, and you can learn all about it here: https://www.jamieleecoach.com/apply **
  • Connect with me on LinkedIn
  • Email me at jamie@jamieleecoach.com


Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Text me your thoughts on this episode!

As a woman, I've encountered contradicting feedback that my voice is both "too loud" and "too soft." I've felt the pressure to change, minimize, and silence my natural speaking voice because unconscious gender bias leads to more criticism, rather than amplification of women's voices. 

In this episode, my two guests -- Julie Fogh and Casey Erin Clark of Vital Voice Training -- celebrate a decade of helping leaders communicate with savvy, charisma, authenticity, and confidence by embracing, not changing, their voices. 

We revisit their journey from their first pitch to present at the Bullish Conference in Miami, in 2014 (where I also presented a negotiation workshop and met them for the first time), to their current mission of reshaping communication culture. 

Julie and Casey share their insights on how women's voices have evolved in the public sphere, countering critiques like vocal fry and upspeak, and how they’ve built a community grounded in the core values of service. 

You'll learn: 

  • How to use insights from acting training to uncover more authentic aspects of yourself for empowered self-expression
  • What genuinely builds the confidence to speak on a TEDx stage 
  • How to combat public speaking anxiety 
  • The surprising take on filler words like "ums" and "ahs" that will have you feeling relieved to speak as you do
  • How to approach the intersection of personal power and systemic/environmental factors, so you have greater agency over how you speak, especially if you're a woman and a person of marginalized identity 
  • How to have difficult conversations with an audience that lead to breakthroughs and what Julie and Casey offer to make it even easier 


Vital Voice Training is a voice, public speaking, and communication coaching company on a mission to change the conversation about what leaders are “supposed” to sound like, help organizations revolutionize their communication culture, and help individuals communicate with savvy, charisma, confidence, and a deep connection to their core values. For the client, the result is your voice: amplified (not just louder). 

Website: http://vitalvoicetraining.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/vital_voice, @vital_voice 

Instagram: http://instagram.com/vitalvoicetraining, @vitalvoicetraining 

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/vital-voice-training




Enjoy the show?

Connect with me

  • **You want to get promoted and better paid with best tools possible. That's what I offer inside my Executive Coaching Series, and you can learn all about it here: https://www.jamieleecoach.com/apply **
  • Connect with me on LinkedIn
  • Email me at jamie@jamieleecoach.com


Speaker 1:

We met Casey and Julie. We met 10 years ago at the Bullish Conference for Ambitious Feminists. If I remember correctly, it was for ladies who wanted, like aggressive lady advice.

Speaker 2:

I believe I remember specifically aggressive lady advice being part of this.

Speaker 1:

Yes, yes, gosh, what's her name? Advice being part of this. Yes, yes, gosh, what's her name? Jennifer DeZora yes, is the founder. She organized this really great women's conference. I think the first one was in 2013. And I believe Julie and Casey, we all met at Miami in 2014. It was the second time I was there and, yeah, we were just before we hit record. We were like, yeah, 10 years doesn't exist. We don't look 10 years older, we don't feel 10 years older.

Speaker 2:

Sometimes I feel 10 years older in my spirit and sometimes I feel 10 years older in my knees, but I don't always feel 10 years older in my spirit and sometimes I feel 10 years older in my knees, but I don't always feel 10 years older everywhere. This is actually the 10th anniversary of Vital Voice Training coming up in just three weeks. So it's it is. We have been thinking a lot back to that. That very first conference that was our first pitch email we ever sent out was to Jen for that conference.

Speaker 1:

Amazing, amazing. And so you pitched and you got a yes, congratulations. I mean I should first introduce y'all. So today on the podcast, on the Negotiate your Career Growth podcast, we have Vital Voice Training. Vital Voice Training are two powerhouse women and they're also a voice, public speaking and communication coaching company on a mission to change the conversation about what leaders are quote unquote supposed to sound like.

Speaker 1:

I love that. As well as help organizations revolutionize their communication culture and help individuals communicate with savvy, charisma, confidence and a deep connection to their core values, they work with top-tier executives and their teams, world-changing entrepreneurs, best-selling authors, legacy organizations and high-growth startups to help clients find their vital voice, and their clients regularly bring their groundbreaking ideas and perspectives to stages all over the world. Welcome to the podcast co-founders Julie Foe and Casey Aaron Clark, and you can find more information about both Julie and Casey on their website and Casey on their website, vitalvoicetrainingcom. But for now, I'd like to talk about what has changed and what hasn't changed since we first met 10 years ago, 2014. It was the spring of 2014, exactly 10 years ago, at Bullish Conference, for ambitious feminists who wanted aggressive lady advice.

Speaker 3:

It's funny. Just really quick correction my last name is fog instead of foe, and that's that's important, because there is another voice coach whose name is Julie foe. So much like vital voice training and vital voices often getting confused. So I was thinking about there's this confluence of this particular kind of both aggressive lady, business advice, boss, babe, culture and a group of pretty badass independent thinking individuals that all kind of met around 2014. We learned about the Bullish Conference from someone in the same goal setting group, where Casey and I initially met. So it was very much anchored in the starting of Vital Voice Training and I think about this opportunity that we all had to gather in Miami talking about so many different topics, talking about things that felt so bold and exciting, and this idea that it was doable, that these dreams were doable, and not in this like soft manifesting way and there's room for soft manifesting, but it was. Also there are steps, there are actions you can take to get where you want to be, and that feels like it's of the people that we've met over the past 10 years.

Speaker 3:

What I've seen are these incredible career trajectories deepen and these missions deepen. Going back to our mission of working from your core values. The people that we've seen blossom and make some real changes and difference are operating from these incredible core values of not just like feminism, but of contribution. So, yes, there's sales and there's all of that, and that's just a part of running a business, but what I have noticed amongst this group is people that are interested in service as much as they are interested in making a ton of money, and I don't think that's changed over the past 10 years. What I have seen is those plants growing and that reach growing and those roots growing. So that's how I see it. From this end, we all get to chat from our various locations. 10 years later, we have that unique origin story of our relationship story of our relationship.

Speaker 2:

2014 was such a hotbed of conversation around women's voices, and we like to refer to 2014 as the great moral panic over vocal fry, where you got all of these articles about Kim Kardashian and Britney Spears and Valley Girl, and women just sound so young and dumb and girly and why can't they stop talking like that so that people can finally listen to them? And the thing that has really proven true since 2014 is that the it issue may change. We might be talking about upspeak instead of vocal fry, or we might be talking about how women need to stop saying just, or they need to drop their softening language, or they need to lean in, or they need to do this or do that, or stop doing this or stop doing that, but it's always something that makes women's voices just harder to listen to, and it's always something that people feel not just the right but the necessity to comment on so that women know what they're doing wrong. And some of that comes from other women and some of that comes from men. But what has been? But what has been?

Speaker 2:

I don't want to say discouraging, but there is a sense, I think, like when we gathered in 2014,. It's like we're on this precipice. We're changing things, we're speaking up, we're not taking, you know, a certain kind of BS anymore and 10 years later it's like well, the problems are still here. What do we do? And I'm actually interested, jamie, in if you feel like the needle has moved, or if it's kind of different or same problem, different wrapping around the problem, or if it's just that we've received pushback lately. I'm interested in what you think about that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you know what I was thinking as you were speaking is wow, yeah, I've been quote unquote guilty of all those things vocal fry or, you know, uptalk, using just softening language plenty of time. Even though I coach plenty of powerful, ambitious women, I'm one myself and I have also been told. This happened to me in 2020, when we were all confined to our homes and my life partner, who is a tech executive, had to work in the same one bedroom apartment as me. He would come out of the bedroom like you are too loud. I'm like you can tell a woman who's teaching other women to speak up and negotiate for themselves that she's too loud. But, alas, we resolved that problem by moving to a two bedroom.

Speaker 1:

But, um, what was coming up for me was how so much has changed. The political landscape has changed and I have changed, and you know two things. There was Donald Trump that was elected two years later, 2016. We thought, oh my gosh, are we going to have the first woman president? I was so excited, yeah, and then, in that day, the election day 2016, I was crushed. It was as if a dream died, as if it was a funeral of a hope, an ideal, and then, since then we've had to deal with the aftermath of that and then the pandemic.

Speaker 1:

And for me personally, I've just become less and less involved in the minutia of the things that we have to fix and control and change to be acceptable or likable or more respected, and I've become more and more interested in how do we deepen our sense of groundedness and our personal power, because that's that's the place from which we negotiate, we speak up, we advocate with most effectiveness, with true power. Right, it's not like oh, your voice is whatever. It's like no, that's just fluff, that's a non-issue at the end of the day. So, yeah, that's what's coming up for me. What are your thoughts about that?

Speaker 2:

I agree. I think that that's the direction that we've gone to. I mean, there's, you know, again in this landscape of everyone feeling the need to tell women what they're doing wrong, and, frankly, an enormous industry that has been created around you know, teaching women how to do it less wrong. And let's be clear, both of us are our experts that women come to because they have confidence problems, and I want to make it very clear that we work with all genders and are delighted to work with all genders. But, you know, women do come to us often with these confidence problems.

Speaker 2:

If every woman was already perfectly in her power, maybe our businesses wouldn't exist. And yet we all three of us sitting here want women to be in their personal power, like we don't want to be needed anymore, like I want every woman to feel that she has a toolbox at her disposal to express herself in the way that she wants to express herself, knowing that we never guarantee perfect success, because we exist in an ecosystem with other people who are always going to have their opinions. We exist in a culture that's always going to have its rules and regulations, whether they're stated or unstated. It's rules and regulations, whether they're stated or unstated, but that sense of knowing who you are and knowing what you have to offer and operating from that is so powerful.

Speaker 3:

Jen DeSera said something I can't remember if it was the first bullish or the second bullish about objecting to the word empower, because that means somebody else is giving you power, and that's stuck with us throughout all of this time. And this, this idea of how you find your internal personal power, it's not about adhering to more rules and in my brain, following more rules and empower have similar roots of somebody else is in the authority. So one of the big things that we've thought about and really continue to think about is what are the ways to access? I mean, when people talk about their voices, I sound how I sound, what I want people to know is great. That is just fine if that is what you want.

Speaker 3:

But your voice has more to it. Your voice has more depth, your voice has more power. Your voice has more depth. Your voice has more power. Your voice has more connection. Your voice has more charisma when we can get outside of all of this kind of tension and I need to do it right and I'm going to put myself in a box. So we've worked really hard to bring more of kind of the outskirts of our acting training and more of the physical stuff, more of the artistic stuff, all of these elements to create experiences where we can discover more about voices. So less do it right, in fact, no do it right and more options and failure and embracing process, and all of these things that are so deeply important to us as artists and it turns out are also deeply important to, you know, the care and feeding of souls in late stage capitalist United States.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for that. I appreciate how, I loved, how I think it was at the 2014 bullish conference. You two gave a speaking workshop and then I give a negotiation workshop, and I loved how you walked everyone through the process of really engaging our lung capacity. So, again, it's not like we're reaching outside of us, it's like, no, we're just going to reach a little bit deeper into our own resources resources we literally have inside our own bodies to feel our lungs expanding sideways.

Speaker 1:

That's the one thing I still remember from your workshop, instead of thinking about breathing in and your shoulders going up. No, we're going to breathe in so that our lungs expand sideways, so that our diaphragm is actually engaged, so that we could genuinely speak from our own authentic voices, coming from the depth of our guts. And I thought that was so rich. And, julie, thank you first of all for correcting me on your name pronunciation and secondly, yeah, I think this is why we resonated so much together as practitioners, as teachers, as trainers, because even for me, even now, 10 years on, I'm still teaching my clients in workshops and trainings. Hey, let's learn to embrace the process. Let's learn to embrace. No, let's learn to embrace the process. Let's learn to embrace. No, let's learn to embrace quote unquote failure.

Speaker 1:

You both are nodding your head so vigorously and I, you know, actually I want to hear a little bit more from your acting backgrounds, julie and Casey. I know, casey, you know you were recently. I saw on social media that your voice was on a Broadway show recently, so congratulations. But I really want to hear from you because you two are in the trenches of like okay, we're going to go and we're going to audition, right, and we're going to embrace that potential rejection and embrace the process of continuous growth, like. I think this is why the work you do with executives and startup companies is so rich because it's like, so real, it's genuine. You teach them from your own experience. You teach them from a place of integrity. So tell us a little bit more of how your acting background informs the training and the coaching you do.

Speaker 3:

Well, for me, my acting training Casey and I sometimes joke about this and the part of the joke is I studied quote straight theater, which means that I did not study singing and dancing. So my acting grad school wasn't I don't want to say it wasn't joyful, but it was very much about getting into the darkest parts of human souls and how to embody that. So when you go into a performance, you're, you're able to, you know, deliver on all levels of, of embodiment, moving other people through your own emotions. So what that meant for me and how it relates to voice, is I got to see, instead of a group of individuals all doing their best to look like what they thought an actor was supposed to look like, watch them go through their process of connecting into that vein that, like I call it, the staring at the sun version of you, you and how that lives outside of habits and conditioning, and who we present ourselves to the world, how much more we have as individuals. That it really is us plus our given circumstances creates all of these different ways we show up. So I've never had a particular target that I've been looking at and that really feeds into how I teach voice is. It's not about me telling you the right thing to do. It's about giving you the tools to discover for yourself. Oh, there's more of me. There's there's.

Speaker 3:

And I go back to what I was saying about the darkness part of it, because there are some things that I experienced in grad school getting to see women go into full rages on stage, women going into unlikable parts of their personalities and creating tremendous power from those places. So, being able to, how do you start to feed those things in? How do you start to feed intimidate in? How do you start to feed annihilate in? How do you start to feed, you know, annihilate as these verbs and these things that we cut ourselves off from because of this idea of what's quote good, what's quote bad. So I would say, to sum that up, the acting training gave me a step away from any moral judgment over things that we feel and experience and a lot more of an eye to use everything. Use everything. So, yeah, that's what I would say.

Speaker 2:

All of that. Definitely, I think theater theater gives you a mostly consequence free way of exploring your own edges and I have learned something from every character I've ever played, like I like something about myself that I now have that again as a tool in my toolbox that I can bring a little element of that. Um, we like to say that that theater gives us a vocabulary for all the shit human beings do anyway, basically, and by giving us that vocabulary and that structure, it helps us to play with it and explore it and pick it apart and examine, like why is this landing a particular way? Or like getting out of your own head and thinking from the perspective of the person you're speaking with. Your empathetic imagination can be so powerful and that's how we connect with other people. You know, I think when people hear, oh, you're actors, you know, maybe they think of things like oh well, you know, you know how to memorize lines. Or you get on stage and you're not nervous. And yes, we do know how to memorize lines and we can teach you how to memorize things. But that's not what this is about, like it's not about for literally anyone except someone doing a TEDx talk. It is never about adherence to a perfect script. It's about knowing that framework, trusting yourself within that framework and then being able to like bounce up against the edges of that framework or even break that framework. That's where the fun is, I think.

Speaker 2:

Specifically in musical theater world, what I love is showing people that your voice can be pleasurable to use. I think so many people genuinely hate the sounds of their own voices and there are auditory processing reasons for that, there's cultural reasons for that, et cetera. But our voices can actually be joyful and pleasurable to use in ways other than just my day-to-day habitual speech rhythms. We can make big sounds, we can make beautiful sounds, we can make ugly sounds and it can actually feel good in our bodies when we do that. That's something that is really fun to explore with our clients. Sometimes we call that breaking the sound barrier, that experience of like getting out of your own again little box of what you think your habitual day-to-day expression is and finding what else you have available to you listening to this and you're somebody who has an office or a corporate job, can you imagine being in a meeting and speaking up and enjoying hearing your own voice, hearing yourself speaking up?

Speaker 1:

you know sharing an idea, and I think you know your clients must really enjoy this process, because it is like medicine to that almost toxic productivity kind of thinking that I actually have to know the perfect script, have to have it memorized and be able to recite it perfectly without fail every single time.

Speaker 1:

Like this is the sort of mindset that some of my clients encounter, and it doesn't help, right, because it's like we have to always succeed without the failure, which is impossible. We have to always be on point without messing up or not knowing or being unsure, which is, again, is an impossible perfectionist fantasy. And so something that you just reminded me of from your acting backgrounds is sometimes I coach my clients and remind them that having power, positional power, authority, power within the organization, the power to make decisions, the power to say yes, the power to say no, it feels gritty, like, it doesn't feel pretty all the time. It is not comfortable, it is not always certain and nice, sometimes it's a little bit dark, sometimes it's a little bit raw. Sometimes it's just, as you said, like being at the edge of, I guess, your comfort zone. And you know, sometimes my clients are like if I feel this way, does it mean I'm doing it wrong? I'm like, no, what? If it feels this way, it means you're doing it right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, our nervous systems. I heard a quote the other day that I was just obsessed with. Uh, do I think? You told me our nervous systems are the most elegant operating system in the world? Um, but our nervous systems do inconvenient things to us sometimes, and it's always to protect us. But like to swing it all the way back to this idea that actors don't get nervous, like well, no, we totally do. In high stakes situations we totally do. We have often habituated ourselves to the feelings of our nervous systems being activated, which means we have a different relationship to that activation than an everyday human who feels a great deal of trepidation, being, you know, having eyes on them. But that doesn't mean the nervous system doesn't fire and that doesn't mean that there isn't discomfort sometimes in these moments.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for sharing that. And now that we're talking about public speaking, sometimes my clients tell me yeah, I have no trouble having one-on-one or one-to-few, like a small meeting. You're both vigorously nodding your head. You're like I know where this is going. We know, we've been down this road many times. They fear they feel anxious speaking to a large crowd, like a pitch, for example, a business pitch, or a meeting or a presentation, and so I guess for them, they have habituated the pattern of feeling anxious and therefore avoiding rather than going towards those experiences. And if you have any practical advice you know from your actor's toolkit if you have something that you know helps you reframe or break out of that anxiety spiral, I would love to hear what you have to share.

Speaker 3:

So one of the interesting things that we've learned about the nervous system sometimes, when we're talking about fight or flight, the metaphor that people give is it's like there's a saber tooth tiger staring at you because your nervous system is so ancient that it doesn't know that. No, no, that's first of all. Every human being has a working nervous system. We just need to start there, because our number one impetus is survival. Second of all, one against many is triggering to our nervous system, because belonging is such an incredibly important thing that we need for survival. So there's a couple of different directions. There's how we can physically look at anxiety. We've got some tips on that but for me, I think the biggest transition in that is reconfiguring how that situation hits your brain. So if I am one looking at many, I need to very deliberately go inside and change my mindset from I am asking for these people's attention, I am asking something from these people. Instead, I am an offer to this group of people. I am a leader, I am a teacher, and that can very much help.

Speaker 3:

I think that staring at the crowd taking you in and the fears that come with that On the other side of that, one of our favorite, favorite phrases that came to me waiting tables one night and we've used it and evolved.

Speaker 3:

It is this phrase let your butt be big. What does this have to do with confidence in public speaking? Well, kind of everything, because sometimes, when we are standing in front of that group, there can be a tension that comes in, like our arms get sucked into our shoulders, our butt, cheeks squeezed together. These things happen and those trigger our body to feel more nerves. So this idea of let your butt be big as a physical directive in I take the space I take I'm not going to apologize for anything, I'm not going to try and make myself smaller to make easy for you but also in in mechanical recognition of that tension and what that can do to inhibit our breath, to inhibit our resonation. All of this so for me that I am an offer, not an ask, and then the physical directive let your butt be big are foundational, if you will, to how I look at nerves, because I know that we share a lot of overlap in audience and because I believe we've talked I mean, the word perfectionism has already come up in this conversation.

Speaker 2:

I want to specifically offer something to the folks who A think of themselves as empathetic people, who are able to read audiences really well and who care very much about doing a good job. So one thing to know about our nervous systems is that when they are activated, we tend to see the world through a lens of threat. Basically, we put on threat-colored glasses and so as we look out at that audience whether that's live or on Zoom we're scanning the faces, we're scanning body language and if it's in a conversation, we're scanning words and tone of voice. And unfortunately, when we see the world through threat colored glasses, we read neutral faces, neutral voices, neutral words, neutral body language as negative. So if you are an empathetic person who prides yourself on reading people really well and you look out at a sea of people and you see somebody with their arms crossed or their brow furrowed, or you see somebody who just like, looks like they're not into it, your brain is immediately going to go they hate me, this sucks and I'm not doing well. And that's when the shame spiral starts, and that's just never a good thing.

Speaker 2:

So the other tool that we'd like to offer in this scenario is what we call the power of the benevolent assumption. This is about a mindset of curiosity, not judgment. I want to caveat this and say that this is not not not about excusing our audience or someone that we're talking to from responsibility for actual harm, like, yes, there are actual jerks that we interact with, that we experience microaggressions, we experience all kinds of things. It's not a this is not a benevolent assumption for that. This is the benevolent assumption, for maybe that person in the audience has their brow furrowed because that's just their resting listening face, or maybe their arms are crossed because they're cold, or maybe they seem distracted on this Zoom call because their kid's homesick. You can offer them the benefit of the doubt. So it's not about you and how you're doing right now. You get to go back to the task at hand, which is sharing what you came here to share.

Speaker 1:

So good, so good. I'm going to just recap You're not making an ask, you're offering. You're offering. You're offering. You're bringing an offer which is, you know, coming from a place of generosity. Yep, and also, let your butt be big. I love that. This unshaming our women's bodies as well, as you know. Let it take up some space. Yes, yes, and the power of the benevolent assumption. That's so good. That reminds me I had a mentor who taught me, you know, whenever you anticipate talking with someone or talking to a group of people, just imagine people smiling Right, and some people smile more broadly, more openly, more, you know, differently than other people, and some people they keep their smile inward.

Speaker 1:

So, even if they're seeming a little neutral, again, it's sort of like a take on the benevolent assumptions. You know, let's just practice seeing them, even if it's just one person smiling, yeah, yeah, love it, it, this is so good, okay. So some people, uh, get self-conscious, because we all do this. I know I do it right before we make a transition in our thought. We, we pause with ums and ahs, and when I was part of new york toastmasters, it was once the vp of uh communications, or I forget. I was, I was a board member and I recall we would literally count, we would listen for the all the ums and ahs and you knows, and the filler words, and we're like, we were like hawks, we're like, oh, there was three filler words in your speech and so we were almost like the guest shopper with the filler words.

Speaker 1:

And some people you know, I just did it right now I said, you know, and some people think that's a problem. Some people think that their filler words are a problem or they get feedback that they don't come across as confident as some other people hint, hint, male people but and then they start worrying that oh, I use too many filler words, I'm too many ums and ahs, and I would just love to hear your take on this.

Speaker 2:

Well, first of all, we need to give some context to the demonization of ums and ahs. Ums and uhs were not a thing that anybody cared about until we invented recorded sound and we could actually listen back. That was when we first noticed them as a problem there's. Was it Adam Grant? Never mind, I'm not gonna remember who was talking about softening language and how. It's actually not a big deal now. Thank goodness that a man has said it so we can all pay attention to it now. But anyway, ums and uhs are a completely natural feature of human speech.

Speaker 2:

We use them for a variety of reasons, and this applies to all filler words, not just ums and uhs. We use them as thought punctuation. We use them as a way to delineate changes in direction of thought. We do use them as what we call vocalized or verbalized pauses, as in to buy us time to think. We also use them and especially for people who are used to being interrupted. We use them to hold the floor. We use them as a way of saying I'm not finished yet and I know if I leave a pause here, you're probably going to jump in and interrupt me.

Speaker 2:

So the first step is de-shaming them, recognizing that probably the reason why we started counting them in the first place is because the art of good communication is such a fuzzy, hard to quantify art and therefore having something to count and quantify to grade you is a good thing. Hence ums and uhs and vocal fillers being counted as a measure of whether someone's an effective speaker or not, which may or may not have literally anything to do with whether or not they're effective. But then we need to figure out why are they happening in the first place? How am I using these vocal fillers? And if I want to reduce them, what might I switch them with? Julie, do you want to add to?

Speaker 3:

that In a little bit of a different direction, because there's also a. I don't think that we have a very patient culture. Even when I look now at like TikTok and Instagram, editing the transitions of thought are just edited right out, as though we always leap to our next thing with no thinking, and I think that does a disservice to everyone. But where I want to add is when you said feedback, the thing about feedback is women get and I mean I know you know this disproportionately impression-based feedback. People think you're this or you come across as this and it's not actionable to resolve so conveniently.

Speaker 3:

These ums and uhs can be an actionable thing, even if they're not actually the thing that was wrong with your communication. There's something somebody can point to to give an excuse for why they just don't like you. So I think the more we can acknowledge that and the more we can embrace that sometimes we're speaking in a speech and maybe that doesn't have ums and uhs because we've rehearsed that speech versus idea generation in a meeting. Sometimes ums and uhs are part of the working through something leaping to the next. So it's it's part of the function of how we need to be, to be generative as well thank you for that.

Speaker 1:

I I really hadn't thought of that one. You know that arms and eyes can serve a strategic purpose at an unconscious level, and so by acknowledging that, we again unshame the arms and eyes. And when we unshame it, now we have greater agency to decide. Okay, do I want to write something down and practice it five times before I deliver this, or do I just want to be in the moment and see what happens? And for some people who are preparing for salary negotiation, they might want to practice a portion of hey. This is the reason why I believe I deserve, you know, $50,000 more than what you're offering. And then the other parts of it, where there's give and take and there is, you know, collaborative brainstorming. It's okay for them to be some no one's gonna like, and if they do, thank you for that. It's like, hey, is this the place you want to be?

Speaker 3:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, thank you for that. So tell us a little bit more. You work with people who want to become confident speakers, and everyone has their own version of what it means to be a confident speaker, and I'm curious how you define confident speaking.

Speaker 3:

What's interesting is we recently wrote a keynote that we delivered at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab about how confidence is the wrong question to ask. That confidence itself has no definition you brought up. It is completely subjective. When we try and pursue looking confident, acting confident, we end up clinging to these tactics that actually get in the way of what we're really trying to do, which is share ideas, engage in discussion, whatever it is that we're up there to do. It has this stranglehold because, whether people realize it or not, the most common thing that we see is somebody on some level thinks that to be confident, they need to be like a Tony Robbins type, that they need that level of performance, which God help us all.

Speaker 3:

So, even rethinking, rather than I want to be confident well, confident at what? Confident at knowing my material, confident at starting to define your terms, but also figuring out but what am I actually doing up here? What am I doing? What am I talking about? What impact do I want to have? What do I want people to think and feel? The more we lean into that and the pursuit of that, those objectives, and we can get our whole body, physicality and everything behind it.

Speaker 3:

That's when we get read as quote confident, whereas if I went into a situation I need to look confident A that's probably going to mean I'm not going to allow myself to fail, because failure confidence, and yet we all know that great success, successful people fail more than unsuccessful people. So I think, getting rid of the stranglehold of confidence when we haven't defined it and starting to really get into again, how can I deepen the, my access to actions and not all of these, these myths, this mythology that exists around, quote good public speaking. I hope that made sense. You just took a little trip in my brain with me.

Speaker 1:

No, it makes total sense to me. I was thinking about, like imagine we allow ourselves our butts to be big and let it feel good, let it take up space. And here's something that I share with my clients that they have yet to be receptive to. She's like what if we were willing to be mediocre?

Speaker 2:

oh yeah, yes, the conclusion that we came to as we really started to pick apart confidence is that confidence is an outcome, not an action. It's a feeling, it's not a tool. We can't do confidence. So the question always comes back to what can we do? Communication is active. It is an action. We can't actors know this. We can't go on stage and be sad or like be happy or be in love. We take action with other characters, by ourselves, within the context of this script.

Speaker 2:

So the three words that we came up with, that we have sort of centered the Vital Voice Training philosophy around, are creative, embodied and bold. Creativity being around, finding this artistic process, embracing failure, embracing rehearsal, embracing structure that we learn so we can break it. Embodiment, obviously, being around like. We live in such a disembodied culture right now. We live in such a neck up world.

Speaker 2:

The business world in particular is so neck up but you don't just have a body, you are a body. We have to bring our body with us. Our body has gifts for us and, frankly, at this point it's like the only thing that sets us apart from the robots. So we need our bodies to be part of this, and then boldness is about realizing that this is not a fear-free activity, that there are consequences when we show up in the world and we can't live a consequence-free life and have any kind of impact whatsoever. So we make bold choices, we take bold action centered on who am I and what do I want to do, who do I want to be in the world, and that's where all of those things together might bring us to the outcome of being a more confident person. That's great, but it's the actions along the way that the magic happens in.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for that. What I teach in my coach practice is that we have brains. We have more brains than just in the skull. We have thousands and thousands of nerves in our heart. We have thousands and thousands of neurons in the gut processes these hormones like oxytocin and serotonin, and so sometimes I often work my clients through exercises to harness the insights, the information from these other brains, and so I love what you're saying.

Speaker 1:

It's like it's not just rational, it's just logic, it's like how can we really feel it? Blow the neck. So it's not just the mental exercise, but a lived experience like taking action. Right, that's a lived experience, and confidence is an outcome of taking action, and sometimes for me and I I love that it resonates with you, sometimes like you know what, if we were willing to be even considered, to be considered to see mediocre, then you're just one percent more willing to take action. That one percent builds the action, the experience and thereby the confidence. Thank you so much for that. Okay, so this conversation has been so fun. It's like we're reuniting with compatriots to share with the audience of Negotiate your Career Growth podcast, because everything that you've shared so far, everything you know, these are all great tidbits and insights to apply to public speaking as well as negotiations, big and small, but is there anything else that I haven't yet asked that you would love to share, either one of you?

Speaker 3:

I just want to throw something back to you that has been deeply resonant since 2014. When you were teaching your negotiation workshop and you talked about not filling the silence, that has been life-changing having words put to the magic and not feeling like you need to be the one to jump in and break the silence, that you can cause somebody else's discomfort strategically.

Speaker 2:

I want to swing it over to the organizational side for a moment. So we've had the gift over the last couple of years of doing a lot more corporate and organizational level work and I think because you know we started this conversation by talking about the fixing culture that we live in the grand question of is it a you problem or a them problem might be a slightly oversimplified way of looking at a very complex system. We exist within systems and I want more people to think about the environments that they're operating in and the systems in which they operate, both to assess the health of the system. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had recently about people being in toxic work environments or even not necessarily even like so toxic because maybe then they'd quit, but just work environments that aren't working, communication cultures that just aren't working, meeting cultures that are so profoundly broken. When you can start to let yourself off the hook a little bit for the fact that you have to operate within an imperfect system again, then, once we accept the given circumstances as they are now, we have a little bit more power to operate, but we also ideally have the power to hold our systems better accountable. I mean, that's why we want to do the work to hold our systems better accountable. I mean, that's why we want to do the work that we do at the organizational level. We want to challenge people to think about.

Speaker 2:

What kind of communication culture are you creating here? How can we make better meetings If you want your junior employees to feel confident speaking up? Are you creating an environment in which they can do that and fail and do it again, where you're giving them clear feedback so that people can actually take action on what you want them to take action about? Do you have a clear definition of what great public speaking within your organization look like, or are you just telling people not like that, because that's not helping anyone get any better? Organizations need to think about this stuff and they need to think about it holistically for the success of the wonderful people who populate their organizations. If you want people to be successful, you have to give them the environment to be successful in.

Speaker 1:

Julie, would you add anything to that?

Speaker 3:

Yes, and I'm going to take a moment to put my thoughts together.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, take a moment.

Speaker 3:

So much of the work that we do is about teaching people that learning to identify your given circumstances as they are and how to work with those is better than staying away until you can craft your perfect push-off point, and I think that that's something that gets missed.

Speaker 3:

When we do talk about these generic terms like confidence or, as Casey was saying, not like that is, we get divorced from the idea that we actually can, with our own brains, as we are here today, look at what we're walking into and, with a bit more analysis, a bit more acceptance of what it is, formulate our action plans from that that there really actually are some concrete things that we can lean into when we give ourselves that curiosity, that investigative hat to look at what it is, both to accept things as they are and also because there's very little that adults at this stage in their lives don't know how to deal with. But somehow, when we get up on stage, we forget who we are, where we come from and anyone who's ever loved us or talked to us, and start to feel like we're out on our own and we're not. So the more we can marry those two things to realign that, I think, the more both that helps our nervous systems and the more I think that helps our impact.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for that. I think we're on the same page here. Maybe you can tell me if I'm wrong. When, casey, you were talking about toxic environments and systems that aren't always helpful or conducive, what came up for me is there's also the ecosystem of the human body, which is the nervous system, and I've only recently found out a year ago that I'm a highly sensitive person and I realized that so many environments had felt toxic to me because I'm highly sensitive, and so you know, toxic is a subjective label, right?

Speaker 1:

Something that feels toxic and difficult for me is like it's just a walk in the park for somebody who doesn't have these sensitivities, this orientation, as I do, and so I like what Julie, you were saying is like, no, we have to get curious and we have to assess, almost like an objective, curious mindset what are the facts, what, what's actually going on, what, what's being said, what's not being said, right? So it's like, yes, we have the feeling that this isn't working, which we're inclined to label something. But then, before we jump to a label, can we just assess what is being said, what isn't being said, what is being done, what isn't being done, and then, tactically, how can we address them? One by one. I think we're all on the same page here, but tell me if I've missed anything. No, that makes sense to me.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, it's because all of this happens at the intersection of me and everything else.

Speaker 2:

We don't do this alone, but we do have an effect on our environments and our environments have have an effect on us. So I think it is like that curiosity of understanding that intersection, not feeling like I'm an island but also not feeling like I am, you know, adrift on the sea of what everybody else is doing and I have no control. We've got agency. That's where finding the agency comes from. Is that recognition of being at that cool crosswords, because it's where all of the stressful, challenging stuff with human communication happens, but it's also where all the good stuff happens.

Speaker 1:

So tell us a little bit more how people can find you, tell us a little bit more how you work with organizations as well as individuals. And yeah, I already said it, but I'll say it again Tell us where people can go to learn more about Vital Voice Training.

Speaker 2:

So our website is vitalvoicetrainingcom. Nice and easy. We're on LinkedIn right now. Quite a lot. That's kind of been our new social media playground. If you had told me 10 years ago that LinkedIn was going to be my social media playground, I don't know that I have necessarily believed you, but that's all right, it's good. It kind of feels like 2010 era Twitter over there. Yeah, there's a lot of crap, but there's also some really good conversations happening In terms of how we work with people.

Speaker 2:

When it comes to individuals, our individual clients come in sort of two categories. There's the project clients. So that's, I'm preparing a pitch or a keynote or a TEDx talk. I have a specific goal that I'm working toward and we're rehearsing toward that goal. Then we also have the category of our presence clients. So they're looking for a little bit more global look at communication. Maybe they're a new manager, maybe they're the face of their company, they're an entrepreneur, they're getting on more stages and we're looking at a real 360 view of communication and lots of different arenas. In that case, when it comes to corporations and organizations, we have obviously brass tacks public speaking skills, presentation skills. You want your team of all levels of experience and all levels of comfort with this, to feel better about public speaking. We got you, but the other really juicy stuff. Julie, do you want to tell them about difficult conversations and communication culture stuff?

Speaker 3:

Yes, we have been very, very interested both in exploring broken meeting culture but also this intersection of public speaking and difficult conversations, whether that's presenting to hostile audiences or just there's a lot of different examples that you really need to understand more about how the nervous system plays into and affects not only your communication but, on the receiving end, their communication. And it's so much fun to get to dive into this combo Because I think more and more public speaking actually does contain in it elements of difficult conversations. We define difficult conversations as any conversation that activates your nervous system, but I think we're just at a time in history where any opinion creates a reaction, and knowing how to maintain your center, knowing how to work with that and knowing how to navigate those, those roadblocks- and facilitate a room.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah, Something we we love doing and it allows us to bring in our work with emotional intelligence. So it's not just, you know, not just acting and directing and all that fun stuff, but really engaging in these game-changing and world-changing conversations.

Speaker 1:

So you two join the conversation as facilitators, as co-facilitators, and help make the difficult conversation less difficult. Is that right?

Speaker 2:

Yes, and we teach people how to do difficult conversations better, so you know how to, for example, how to deal with hokey audience questions audience questions that are trying to throw you off your game how to, um, how to steer a room back from the brink of things going off the rails? There's, so it's, it's really, is that that intersection of you know? There's maybe your planned presentation, and then there's everything that comes after it and how to deal with that room. It's, it's very, it's exciting work.

Speaker 1:

Excellent, excellent. Well, thank you so much again for your valuable time and your insights. Really enjoy this conversation. Best of wishes for both of you.

Speaker 3:

Thank you, such a pleasure. Thank you, jenny.

Speaker 1:

As an executive coach for women, I'm super passionate about helping smart women who hate office politics get promoted and better paid. I do this through my unique combination of number one self-directed neuroplasticity tools backed by science. Number two negotiation strategies proven to work for women by academic research. And number three intersectional feminist lens that honors women's lived experiences. To learn more about my one-on-one coaching series and to book your free hour-long consultation with me, come on over to jamieleacoachcom slash apply. It's jamieleacoachcom. Slash apply. J-a-m-i-e-l-e-e-c-o-a-c-h dot com. Slash apply. Talk soon.

Reflection on 10 Years of Change
Exploring Personal Power Through Voice
Managing Nervousness in Public Speaking
Embracing Vocal Fillers and Confidence
Navigating Communication Culture in Organizations