Caroline Goyder is impressive. When I say that, I don’t mean just the fact that she is a real deal thought leader with decades of experience, a TED X with almost 8 million views and three best-selling published books by a major publisher and a graduate of Oxford University. She is an impressive human. Deep in empathy, generosity and compassion, I can only imagine what a dream Caroline must be for her coaching clients. I sat down via Zoom to interview Caroline in the UK about her latest book “Find Your Voice.”
Your book opens with an incredible statement: “Connection is something we can generate from within if we know how. It’s essential to speaking with confidence because when you see an audience as friends you can have fun as a speaker.” What are your thoughts on the intersection of voice and connection?
This is fascinating. The thing I would say about voice and human connection is that voice is, in really simple terms, the expression of your aliveness. And when we meet as human beings it’s like two nervous systems meeting. I think of the people in my life, you have a lovely calm energy so even though we’re meeting across the screen, through the pixels, through your voice, I can hear you’ve got centred breathing, I can hear that your state is calm, I can sense that you’re really listening, and that centres me. And equally, we meet people who have voices that are very high up in the chest. They’re speaking really fast. You get a sense that they’re not really present through their voices.
And so I feel less good about that interaction and that might then have an effect where I go onto my next interaction and I pass on that adrenaline. So because voice is the expression of your aliveness, it’s the tool with which to connect to other human beings. Words are great, but voice really tells us about someone else’s nervous system. We don’t think about it. That’s the weird thing, it’s totally unconscious.
I actually found it fascinating that you, as a voice coach and a speaker, at times didn’t like to be on a stage. Did you have to unlearn and relearn things?
Yeah. I left uni and thought I wanted to be an actor, which was crazy. Trained as an actor, wasn’t that good I have to say. I think I’d be better now because I’m more centred. But when I got to drama school they said things like, ” You have no presence. You are not centred. You have no discipline. You’re not listening. Your voice is thin.”
It was a whole load of feedback that was really hard to take. I was probably quite stuck in my head. I’d been studying English literature, so I was working everything out cognitively and, of course, that’s not what acting is, and that’s not what good speaking is, as you well know. Good speaking is dancing with the audience on stage.
Which is why we’re missing it on the webinars because you can’t dance. We have rapport because I can see your gesture but we don’t have that connection. Now, I wasn’t good at that connection at first because I was stuck in my head. And they said to me, “You’re trying to think your way to acting and that’s not how it works.” You’ve got to kind of move your way into acting. It’s a felt physical thing really. I’m like the maths teacher at school who was good at explaining Pythagoras because they’ve been really bad at it. That’s me with speaking, I had to learn all of this stuff the hard way. So I get it.
So how does our voice, and using it well, give us an edge in an AI-driven future?
It’s such a good question because you would think voice doesn’t matter anymore because we’re all emailing and WhatsApping and texting. But actually it’s this medium, isn’t it? It is Zoom or podcasting or webinars. The voice now, in a digital world, actually is even more important than ever. And the trouble is that all of the texting, all of the leaning forward over screens, all of the getting stressed about all the different mediums, stops us breathing. It takes the breath into the upper chest, it changes our posture. And so we lose our voices just at the moment that we really need them. And it’s something that I think needs to be made clear to people so that they can work on it.
So how can we use our voice to connect better?
Gosh, that’s a big one. It’s funny, I always come back to the starting point, which is breath and presence. And as much as voice is about speaking, really it’s about the body. So I’m doing a lot of yoga in the mornings at the moment, and a lot of these traditions, yoga, qi gong, and whatever you’re doing is really voice work. Meditation is really voice work, because anything you do to centre your mind, body, breath is going to help your voice. So what I would say to someone who only had five minutes and wanted to connect better is, in the morning before you go out or do your 400 Zoom calls, take 10, 15 minutes to do a bit of a gentle stretch. Move your body. You could do a sun salutation, it might be a walk outside in the garden. And then spend five minutes or so just tuning into your breath.
Sit quietly. Notice the rhythm of your breath. Notice then how your voice is. Perhaps sing or hum or chant if that’s your thing. And that 10 minutes of connecting to your own instrument means that when you meet other people in the world, on Zoom at the moment, later on we’ll be back to real life hopefully, then you are more connected to yourself. And when you’re connected to yourself it’s so much easier to connect to others, because we’re not stuck in this loop in our heads. We’re in the body.
I think there’s a lot to do with this in schools, which is that we’re taught that the brain writes essays and the body does sports. But if you go back to older traditions, back to the yoga, back to the qi gong, all of that stuff, then it’s not just the body does this, the brain does this. Those traditions are about joining the dots. And so we’ve let a whole generation down by saying your body does sport, your brain does clever stuff.
In a social setting, how can we use our voice to connect quickly with people?
So way back when, in 2008, I wrote a book about A-list actors and confidence. And one of the actors, I didn’t talk to Kate Blanchett, the interview never happened, which was deeply devastating. But in the research for that interview, she talks a lot about camera in and camera out, because actors are often introverts and they struggle with that human connection, which is weird to say, I know. And her thing is that as an introvert she will think, “Am I in camera in?” Which is a kind of introversion. Or, “Am I in camera out?”
And when she shoots she goes camera out. Now camera out means that I’m noticing what I can see, hear and feel around me. I’m not stuck in my head. I’m not thinking, “Oh do they like me? Is this okay? Am I wearing the wrong thing? Should I have said that?” Because that’s a blocker to connection. But if I just think I can see Simone’s couch, she looks interested, she’s smiling. And then maybe I listen carefully to a phrase you say, and I might use that phrase to turn that into a question. So I’m really just intently listening, seeing, hearing, feeling. That camera out is a real way of plugging into connection. Whereas camera in is a real blocker. So that was one lesson to learn.
So anything else besides camera in, camera out, that you would suggest?
The simplest thing that I was taught also came from an actor, he’s called Bill Nighy. I did interview him and he was very helpful because he is quite paranoid about life in the nicest possible way. I mean aren’t we all? And he’s also a bit of an introvert. He’s quite shy. Although those two things are not necessarily the same thing. But he said he had a really simple strategy when he had to film or go to a party or audition.
He said, “I used to be really nervous and always worry how I was doing and if I’d messed it up and all of that stuff. So I realised that in good auditions, when I started to be the other side of the table because I’d hit the big time, you’d see actors come in and the good ones wouldn’t come and going am I only good, will I work again, will they give me a job. They come in and they’re just going, how can I help? How can I help these people, the producer, director, lead actor, how can I help them choose the right person to make this film a success. Those people, they walk into the room with connection, with compassion. They’re in services, something bigger than them. And that’s when you get the job.”
I use that every day. When I’m at my best, I’m just in flow. I’m just there. And so the more we can just switch off that part of us that’s observing ourselves and just be in it, it is mindfulness, it is all of that work, the better our presence works.
On a stage, how can people better use their voice for public speaking?
The voice is the same, but it’s like there’s a sense of filling space differently. And I guess that’s what we’re missing as speakers. And the thing I would say to people is that what you learn as an actor is that when you walk out on stage, the first thing you do is plant your roots. You get your feet incredibly grounded and you just let your body drop. And with that feeling of down, then you find a sense of out, and you let your energy expand to the back wall of the theatre or the back wall of the conference room. So it’s like having deep roots and big branches that reach out. And then when you speak, your eyes might be looking at someone in row three but your voice is filling the room, giving the whole room a big hug.
It’s really an athletic thing. Not in a kind of “you have to push” way but that’s not something that just happens by magic. And what I would say speak is sing. Because if we’re singing happy birthday to a friend at a party and giving it some welly, that’s using the same set of muscles. So if someone wanted to find that, just sing and sing your speech before you do it. And then would say also physically warm up. So it’s back to do some yoga, go for a run, do some stretching, get the breath centred. Speaking on a big stage is a kind of easy process, but it’s a physical thing. You have to warm up for it.
Caroline’s TED X has almost 8 million views.
Your latest book “Find Your Voice” is the most comprehensive current book on voice. It’s like if people couldn’t afford to coach with you, they could buy this, and provided they were disciplined enough to follow the exercises and the diagrams, they could change their life with this book.
Yes. I always think if I were to get run over by a bus, which could happen. Well no, there aren’t many buses here because we’re by the seaside. But if something happened to me, what would I want to have left? And so literally in this book I wrote down everything that has been helpful to me and then cooked it down. This is the core of what I think right now in the world is helpful. And so I have just given it away. But I think it’s that good to do that.
Caroline is giving away a HUGE gift to everyone during this trying time. Anyone reading this who buys a copy of “Find Your Voice” just needs to email a receipt to Fatima at firstname.lastname@example.org, and they will get the full set of Caroline’s audio courses, which will talk them through the gravitas confidence method! You can buy the book HERE.