Radio 1 Surgery on Shyness and Stuttering


Always like to listen in to Radio 1 surgery on a Wednesday eve when I’m coming home from the gym.  Dr Radha and Gemma Cairney give really useful advice.  Recently they had an evening devoted to speaking – which is right up my street.  They had one amazing girl phone in who had cured herself from stammering by turning her shyness and fear into a belief and appreciation of herself and her worth.   She’d worked on her self – value and stopped worrying about people judging her.   It’s been life-changing for her.  The committment needed to make the changes take time, but when you believe, then the transformation does take place.  Annik Petrou overcame her fear of speaking out loud and formed the Pony Express company – teaching others to speak in public
Her business has  grown and the events are stimulating and fun.
When we’re in situations that make us particularly nervous like an interview or meeting a date for the first time, remember the onus is with the other person.  Interviewers have to be good at their jobs and you are evaluating them.  A date is there for you -to see if you have anything in common – if you don’t feel relaxed when you’re with them, then they’re not right for you.
There was good advice about thinking “bum and feet” to help you relax before a speaking event/presentation from voice coach Caroline Goyder.  Part of the Max Your Voice Check List Before Speaking.
Drinking water was recommended for hydrating the voice.  Yes but please sip small amounts frequently rather than glugging it down.  It’s good to sing in a steamy shower – the steam helps the vocal folds.
Relieving a stammer is about clarifying the message from the brain to the speech mechanism as Doc Radha said.   When we’re unsure of what we’re saying and nervous -the muscles can get into a habit of trying to stop the word being formed just before it’s said –  and a stammer can develop in this way.  The muscles can be released and this allows the words to free flow – but it all starts in the mind with how we feel about ourselves and what we’re saying.  Once a client who’d stopped stammering told me his girlfriend missed the stammer as she though it was sweet.  Fortunately she thought he was great without the stammer too.

Gemma Cairney

What Makes Actors Easy to Hear?



“Judi Dench is the latest actor to criticise younger performers for poor diction.
In a speech before unveiling a blue plaque at the former home of actor John Gielgud, Dench complained that younger actors are not applying themselves to develop their vocal technique, expressing her frustration at not being able to hear them properly.” The Stage

There are lots of reasons for poor diction among some young actors.
Not always because they haven’t been to Drama School.
With the casting done by sending self-tapes, the emphasis is on the look and instant openness to the camera.  Providing the actor says the lines with conviction and is entirely convincing in the role a director will be satisfied that they can direct them and they’ll be good in the roles. Often they are, but for more demanding parts – vocal technique is essential.
Actors like to deliver in their “natural” voice and are keen to preserve this.  When younger actors come to me for voice coaching they are more concerned with learning accents than with learning vocal technique. Depending on the job, I’ll coach vocal technique along with the accent. Maxine Peake has a fantastic vocal technique and her ability to stay with her own accent as well as embrace other accents is a great role model for young actors.
The most successful actors have been fortunate to realise early on that their voice is very much part of their craft.  When an actor is working all the time then the voice grows and technique is passed on by the more experienced actors.  When you’re not working all the time – actors need to build in a daily routine of simple voice exercises that they can incorporate into their lifestyle.  Love of poetry and reading out loud along with the daily voice exercises will always support them – mentally as well as vocally.

Judi Dench

Where Have all the Diplomats Gone?


President Trump’s style, which embraces the trend against being “politically correct”, has turned – either accidentally or purposefully  – against diplomacy.  Without diplomacy in President Trump’s office, there is little hope of good relations with North Korea or any country that doesn’t submit to being treated like out of line fifth year students.
The art of diplomacy is practised by Embassys throughout the world, but it’s China that has stepped into the breach during this latest trouble between Trump and Kim Jong Un.   Having coached Chinese interpreters at the embassy in London, who are specialising in diplomacy, I am not surprised.  The importance of good vocal communication that allows both sides to keep face while discussing matters that could easily escalate out of control,  makes life safer for all of us.

Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping
Kim Jong-Un
Kim Jong-Un
Donald Trump
Donald Trump

How We Construct Our Emotions


Lisa Feldman Barratt has written an excellent book: “How Emotions are Made” giving new insights into the emotions that we see and hear in the voices surrounding us. She writes that we construct our emotions so that we can understand the world around us. We then place an identifying “sticker” of an emotion on the experience which we then identify as an emotional recall. The book is fascinating as it gives new research into positive as well as negative emotions as activated by the amygdala. The understanding of the map of the brain and our emotions is growing. Real situations can give us conflicting emotions, but when we’re listening to actors or singers who have their emotions close to the surface then we are able to empathize and readily “feel” their emotions.  Now we know how Dr Chekov heard and saw and was able to write those amazingly raw scenes of conflicting emotions.
How Emotions are Made by Lisa Feldman Barrett is published by Macmillan

Lisa Feldman Barrett
Lisa Feldman Barrett

Confidence in your Voice


With so many talented young people emerging from the arts and sciences, we need to have accessible support services in place to help them.  Throughout the early part of their working life, it’s important that people have the confidence to overcome what every talented person faces – criticism.  From others and from themselves.

“One needs very strong ears to hear oneself freely criticized; and since there are few who can stand it without being stung, those who venture to perform this service for us give us a remarkable proof of their friendship.” Montaigne

Friends and family may want to help but there isn’t enough time to really mentor others when most people are already preoccupied with either their own career path or keeping a balance within the family. It is crucial at an early stage in your career,  to have someone to turn to for help and advice, someone who you can talk with freely.  This is why a mentor; a truly good mentor can change your life for the good.  Many young people opt to conform to values that they don’t necessarily believe in because they are afraid to offend others and don’t have the confidence to speak up for themselves.   This shows in your voice and gives others a message that you’re insecure rather than secure in your belief of your own talent.  The Prince’s Trust, that helped me when I first started Max Your Voice, has joined forces with L’Oreal in a campaign to help build young people’s confidence.  Dame Helen Mirren is backing the campaign and has some great advice for young (and old) women:
“Be free be liberated, be what you want to be.  It’s to do with liberation, not sexiness, that’s in the past.”

Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren

Ask yourself “What is it that I want?”

How Not To Live In Suburbia – Annie Siddons


The imagery contained in How Not to Live in Suburbia production at the Soho Theatre is fantastic –  as is the accomplished performer/writer with  a great voice – Annie Siddons. The comedy starts with the crisis of her marriage break up or the sh** that hit her life as a result.  The subsequent move to Twickenham – Home of Rugby – gives rise to the Suburbia of the title. The reason for the move? – Her family of two children that can’t be in the show, so are represented by two small trees in pots.  The agony of leaving friends behind who live in enclaves of creativity and then being confronted by people with suburban perceptions and values is something that rang peals of laughter from the audience – yes we all know this one.  The sacking from the book club, the imaginary pass shown to get out of Twickenham and into town, the boyfriend, the drinking  and ….the depression.  The comedy and best acting comes through in the films that Annie Siddons made with Richard Dedomenici.  The hulking Walrus of Loneliness and Seal of Shame crowd in on her as she begins to sink into some suburban puddle of oblivion and loses the will to live let alone write.
The live stand up with her younger alter ego (you can tell by the big hair wig) played by Nicki Hobday, is where the depression becomes more depressing.  One of the small tree children gets ill with an ongoing condition and it’s sad and the sadness begins not to get funny any more.  It becomes reminiscent of Brené Brown and her talks on shame and vulnerability.
At the end Annie Siddons gave out badges and I got one saying “I love f**cking London”, so I perhaps got it horribly wrong in wanting to give her a hug and recommend a good counsellor.

Annie Siddons - How not to Live in Suburbia
Annie Siddons – How not to Live in Suburbia

Being Shy at Party Time


For a lot of people the Christmas Party can be a nightmare.  A discomfort or even terror zone can result from being faced with a crowd of faces that you don’t know very well.  Frightened that you’ll attract attention for  being “shy”, you can either risk turning red and being tongue tied or even worse – gabble on about nothing – without pausing to think or listen.
Communication – whether talking too little or too much is a problem for shy people.
To be shy is to be afraid of people.  This doesn’t mean that a person is shy in all their encounters with people.  A person may be normally confident but shy with members of the opposite (or same) sex, in intimate situations.
A person may be a confident lecturer but extremely shy when giving a speech in public.
There are positive aspects of being shy too.  A shy person can find pleasure in solitude; they may be able to research and work in a more concentrated way without distractions.  Friendships tend to be longer lasting as friends are selected through a deeper level of trust.  Shy people may have more inner resources for survival. Pinterest has some good material on this.

Being shy has happened to most of us in our lives.  When it starts to impinge on the improvement in the quality of your life – either through being afraid of a job interview, an encounter with your boss, a presentation or a social encounter  – then it’s best to find help.  Max Your Voice may be able to help with your communication problem or we may be able to recommend someone who can.   Call or email for a free consultation.  +44(0) 20 85422777,

Voice Care with British Voice Association


Breathe out completely through the mouth and breath in through   the nose for a count of three.  Breathe out again completely through the mouth on a count of five and in again through the nose for a count of three…..  Avoid the over rising of the chest and
Hum from low note to high note and back.
Exhale on “zzz” “vvv” “fff” “sss”
Takes sips of water throughout the day.
Eat mostly alkaline based food
Re-align your neck and back by standing up against a door or wall –
keep your chin down and your eye level straight ahead.
Breathe out completely by  flopping  over – with your pelvis
supported by a wall.
Sip warm water infused with two or three slices of raw ginger
Steam with hot water with sea salt added.
Suck a ricolo herbal lozenge.

If you have prolonged vocal problems go to the page below to find your nearest Voice Clinic

With Thanks to Phyllida Furse, Carol Fairlamb and Carrie Garrett

Frances Parkes at CIOL workshop
Frances Parkes at CIOL workshop

A Support System for Interpreters


A few years back I was asked to give a talk for interpreters at a Conference in the City of London.  There were highly successful interpreters and heads of departments of various universities also speaking.  The Conference was aimed at giving working interpreters information and support on how best to maintain physical and mental well being while they were working on sensitive jobs.

Interpreters are highly trained academically but sometimes their need for more practical skills have not been met.   At that time there wasn’t much training given to interpreters on how to handle the physical and mental rigors that come with the job.  Much discussion was given over to methods of relaxation after a day of mental gymnastics and physical constriction.  One highly successful interpreter believed that the Alexander Technique was the practice that had helped him the most.  This technique guides your body and mind into a state of release.  It is a fantastic technique for interpreters who can benefit so much from the released posture and mental relaxation.  Many people use yoga exercises for relaxation – again an excellent form of tension release and those of you who practice meditation may have found it life changing.

My own specialty The Grotowski Technique, is a useful tool for using “on the job”.  While relaxation exercises are part of the interpreters daily routine, Grotowski offers a way of dealing with sudden surges of stress sometimes connected with sensitive subject matter, that can trip the amygdala and open up the parts of the brain that deal with emotions.  It can happen at any time to interpreters and the effort needed in dealing with the emotions, without letting them affect the voice and the ability to speak, is draining.

One interpreter explained that when she was 4 months pregnant and interpreting at a conference for orphaned children, she found herself choking on the words she was interpreting.  The description of the conditions orphaned children lived in was too much for her to bear.  Many would say that it was unprofessional of her – but how can we convey the meaning behind the words of the speaker if we don’t take in that meaning. Normally we are able to maintain a separation between the general (others) and the particular (ourselves) because the brain can separate the two however the Amygdala can allow our feelings to switch the parts of the brain that we’re using and an in certain circumstances can highjack our words.  A practical understanding of how the voice works and how speech is made together with instruction on how to place the voice in different areas of the body for different effect, is a helpful tool to any interpreter and recommended by the ITI.

Recommended reading – Goldman – Emotional Intelligence

For more information on courses – please click contact

How the brain can hijack your thoughts and words.
How the brain can hijack your thoughts and words.

Scurrilous, Scandal-Mongering, Scoundrel


Scurrilous, Scandal- Mongering, Scoundrel – 18th century words that made it back into political talk during the last election of the Mayor of London.  Somehow these words worked and the attempts to make Sadiq Khan look like a threat to our democracy failed. With the campaign up to Brexit, any attempt at rhetoric was thrown to the wind and much of what was said by both sides was designed to terrify us into decision making.   While we’ve known all along that all words that come from politicians have a political purpose what’s happening now is more sinister as Mark Thompson writes below:
“What happens when political language fails?  When the rage and incomprehension boil over, and we run out of a common vocabulary and sufficient trust in each other’s words to be able to sit down and work through what unites and divides us?”
Clearly with the onset of the internet and the views that are expressed, we are in a place where our respect for politicians has hit a low.  It’s as if we feel we’ve been left out and we are just subject to decisions made, uninformed of the bigger picture. No wonder the real scare-mongers are being listened to. There are still some great politicians out there,  if and when they are allowed to speak – we need to listen to them and their rhetoric.

William Pitt the Younger 1759-1806
William Pitt the Younger