Find your voice to speak/write

Voices reveal all. Writers wrestle to ‘find their voice’ and that of characters.

Public pressure may cause speakers to lose resonance, even voice.

  • Tension causes tight timbre. (Tip: Hum into your head, so you feel vibration in your crown. Hum while opening your nostrils and nasal passages; and while accessing the front “mask” area of your face. Keep your throat open and posture upright.)
  • Insecurity causes ‘up talk’ or that recent trend, ‘vocal fry‘.
  • Tip: Before presenting, find your natural range with a conversational ‘aha’)

Edit, edit and more edit!

Whether you write for the ear or the eye, prune excess words and redraft. 

But my coming book cries ‘no more culls!’ But how to choose between fascinating stories? Rather than publish a brick doorstop tome, I opted for two books:

  • Burn My LettersTwoCovers
  • Midnight Sun to Southern Cross

Curb – or censor?

My characters expressed their voices in archival letters and recorded interviews. 

These and my research unearthed answers to why refugee Karl Johan Back wrote in 1899 to ‘Burn My Letters!’ Under Russian occupied Finland his words were censored. Letters that were saved from the fire uncover insights into his story–and his unique voice. 

Will you help me crowd fund the final leg of a decade long journey?
This week I launch a crowdfunding campaign to publish my next two books. I’ll post a link when it goes live. I offer rewards in return for pledges from $7 up. Books, of course. Scandinavian goodies like home-baked Finnish gingerbread. 

I’m excited! It’s countdown to campaign lift off. I hope you will come aboard. 

More on my Facebook page.

Enjoy the journey as I have done with its discovery. 

April opportunity – coaching and presentation NZ, Adelaide

As I fly there for other bookings, I can offer presentations and coaching without usual travel costs. Email for available dates. 

To Comment or ‘No Comment’

How to dodge bullet questions without those lethal words ‘No comment’? In tough Media interviews or post-presentation Q and A, how to avoid without sounding evasive or flaky? How to present the company position without being trapped into corners?

We tackled this hot topic in my recent Media Skills training. (I enjoyed working with these Rural Financial Counsellors, who assist those in tough situations.)

A picture tells 1000 words

People groan ‘not another PowerPoint!’ Enliven with (relevant) pictures. So at midnight before that day’s training I’m adding family photos of outback Australia to my slides.

Next day I’ll dress up to detract from bleary eyes – pearls will help.

Give reasons. I can’t comment because: 

  • ‘As this is not my portfolio I would refer you instead to Joe Bloggs.’
  • ‘I’m not familiar with that research so will leave it to those who are.’
  • ‘This matter is under investigation’ or ‘For legal reasons…’
  • ‘It is a complex situation and warrants XYZ…’
  • ‘I agree in part but won’t respond to hypotheticals. If you’re asking about QRS I can say…’
  • ‘My brief evaluation is LMN but others are better qualified to respond.’
  • ‘Your premise has some validity but STU…’
  • ‘I don’t yet have the full picture so will reserve judgment until then.’

Sincere thanks for the training program you conducted with my team. It put forward some views that people seldom consider. At an important meeting since then, they were well prepared, relaxed, and gave so much practical information that the meeting was extended.’
Shirley McNaughton, Executive Officer
Rural Financial Counselling Service NSW – Northern Region

How it’s done

British PM Cameron dodged a press conference question about the US-China deal to reduce carbon emissions. He wanted to see ‘more detail’ before making a judgment.

On the global stage

The G20 Brisbane heat abated after a week of celebrity and jet spotting. (Why don’t dignitaries plane pool to help save the planet? Were President Obama’s ex-forum comments appropriate?)

Constructive face-to-face meetings warmed friendships–often through non-verbal cues of body language and voice tone as much as words. Photo and metaphor beamed powerful messages around the world.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s vow to shirtfront Vladimir Putin brought a memorable concept to international diplomacy. It sent media into frenzies of:

Will he-won’t he-did he-don’t he?

(Spellcheck, you don’t get the impact of rhyme and rhythm.)

Top leaders joined Team Abbott to kick that ball after an inappropriate media skit. Which could lessen sympathy for ABC cuts of rural and regional programs, that deny voice to battlers in the ‘outback’.

Bear Diplomacy won friends

  • Vladimir Putin smiled while cuddling a koala, pronounced his hosts efficient and friendly but fled the heat.
  • Indian Prime Minister Modi gave Tony Abbott enthusiastic bear hugs.
  • Angela Merkel enjoyed our beer with locals.

Communication challenges

Merkel is tech savvy. ‘You can’t use two at once’ she advised when a microphone and live translation earpiece set up banshee wailing.

International conferences challenge communication even when the major language is English – my salvation when presenting in Finland.

Build your presentation confidence with training or coaching.

The Joys of Communication

Welcome to my debut blog. If you communicate with words or music this is for you.


My dear friend died recently, a few months short of his century. He was like a father to me. By that age communication was limited. But I cherish memories of our last meeting, when I played my clarinet for him as I did for my mother in her hospital bed. Some Mozart, but mostly the old-timer songs and hymns they knew well. My gift of sound reached to their remaining faculties.


Our digital age sacrifices as much as it gains. How many conversations are two-way? We spit words out into the ether – to what response? But pick up the phone and we hear voice nuance. When we talk over coffee or via Skype we relate with multiple faculties. When I met a friend Peter at a café he could barely talk through bad laryngitis. We updated by writing on his iPad. But laughter, facial and body language compensated for his voice.

The reason we have two ears and only one mouth, is that we may hear more and speak less. (Greek philosopher Zeno, 335 BC – 264 BC)


How acutely do we listen? We can learn much if we listen back to a recording.

Musicians note uneven passagework and erratic rhythms or intonation.

Speakers, we hear, don’t we, the frequent ‘um’ or up-talk, the tendency to rush.

A pre-presentation recording helps us note and avoid words that stutter or stumble. In the writing stage of a presentation, I tape record while walking by my creek or along a beach. The words flow more naturally than when sitting at the computer keyboard. I can then transcribe it and edit further. ‘It is solved by walking’ wrote St Augustine. (Many use dictation software; my efforts to train it are still at the bolshy toddler stage.)

Authors, if we read aloud our manuscript we discover that clunky phrasing, those convoluted sentences, the reiteration of words.

Teachers, challenge your students to tape-record or video some of their practice. Together you can discuss whether they use their time to improve or merely reinforce mistakes.

CAUTION: Recording can daunt. If we listen back immediately after a performance or presentation when still in a sensitised state, we will be appalled by our mistakes. Wait a week so objectivity can temper such reactions. We need balance and to be kind to ourselves. Give credit for how effectively we expressed that phrase.

 ENJOY BEAUTIFUL MUSIC – with the faculties we are given

It’s inspiring that international percussionist Evelyn Glennie is deaf, yet she lives a busy productive career.

“Except for a few minor inconveniences, I am not disabled from achieving anything in my career or private life. How then do the terms ‘Disabled’ or ‘Deaf’ really apply to me? In short, they don’t, not even the ‘Hearing Impaired’ label works because in some respects my hearing is superior to the average non-impaired person. I simply hear in a different way to most people.”

Read more:

 THE BOTTOM LINE: Does our communication diminish others – or uplift them?