On my bookshelf

  • "The Breathing Book" by Donna Farhi
  • "Confessions of a Public Speaker" by Scott Berkun
  • "My Freshman Year" by Rebekah Nathan
  • "Power Presentation" by Patsy Rodenburg

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Speaker Within Audio Companion VI: Putting it into practice

This is the final episode in The Speaker Within Audio Companion. We hope you have enjoyed the series and found it to be useful.

Putting it into practice

Stay tuned for more podcasts and videos at www.sfu.ca/voice

The Speaker Within Audio Companion V: Discovering Resonance

Our bodies contain many resonating chambers. Learn to differentiate between the nasal, skull, and chest resonating chambers and maximize the sounds that each can produce, all the while supporting the sound with the breath.

Discovering Resonance

The Speaker Within Audio Companion IV: Supported Sound

Begin to add sound to your diaphragmatic breathing - start with exercises on voiceless fricatives ("FFFFFFs") and voiced fricatives ("VVVVVVs").

Supported Sound

The Speaker Within Audio Companion III: Diaphragmatic Breathing

In this third installment of the Speaker Within Audio Companion, learn to breathe from the diaphragm in order to support your sound. It's trickier than it seems!

Diaphragmatic Breathing

The Speaker Within Audio Companion II: Alignment

Here is the second in our series of six podcasts that make up The Speaker Within Audio Companion.

This episode is on alignment - it's especially good if you are experiencing stiffness in your neck and shoulders.


Speaker Within Audio Companion I: Introduction

The Speaker Within Podcasts are here!

Do you want to communicate more effectively? Do you find yourself tongue tied or strained at times? If so, you have come to the right place. Welcome to The Speaker Within Audio Companion. This series of podcasts ties in with the Speaker Within workshops presented by Simon Fraser University’s Learning & Instructional Development Centre.

We hope you find this audio companion useful; each segment builds on the previous ones, so we encourage you first to listen to them in order. Later on, you can practice specific exercises by picking out the appropriate episode and working within it.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007


The pomp and circumstance of convocation is over. My regular coffee shop has returned to it's home after being displaced by the rows of silky black robes. As I walk through the now sparsley populated halls, I smile to myself at the memory of the triumphant sound of bagpipes merely a week ago.

I am scheduled to lead a monthly drop in class and judging by the low traffic in the area, I assume that the attendance will be minimal. Five minutes before the class is scheduled to begin, only one student has wandered in. I do not blame our theme for the day, "articulation", for failing to attract. In fact, five minutes later as the room is filling up I realize that there is actually a great desire to find more clarity of speech. I pull out more chairs, apologize for not making enough copies and begin listening to the student's requests, "I trail off at the end of my thoughts." "Sometimes it doesn't feel like my thoughts link up with my speech."

We begin to work, as we always do, with the breath. We warm up by elongating vowels, then we move on to the articulators. Lips part, teeth are revealed, plosives explode and the words begin to find their life. We practice the sounds two ways, one without articulation and the other with robust articulation. "What is the difference?" I ask.

"You can hear the words."

"We're taking more time."

Another participant has heard an item on the news that morning, apparently, we in North America, I assume, are walking 10% faster than we were just a short time ago. She concludes that we must be speaking that much faster, as well. The group nods and mumbles their agreement. I launch into my impassioned plea to reclaim words and am stopped in the middle by a slightly flushed and earnest face. I recognize the look of frustration, "Sarah, that is all well and good if English is your first language, but I come to words that I don't know how to pronounce, so I just mumble them so no one knows what I am saying." Her frustration is understood by 90% of the class. How do we own words when they aren't in our language?

Accent Reduction classes have become extremely popular in Vancouver. So here are a few suggestions:

This site refers you to a book written by Andy Krieger, a local accent reduction coach. I have never worked with the text, but know several of his past clients and most of them have been quite pleased with the results.

Here is a class on accent reduction work, that is offered through the William Davis Centre for Actor's Study. Not to worry, you don't need to be an actor to take the class and the price is much more reasonable than you might find elsewhere.

Here's the source that we needed all along. Free English conversation classes given by the University!

Finally, I mentioned "Speak with Distinction" by Edith Skinner (available at the Vancouver Public Library). Another great one to check out is "Voice and Diction" by Jon Eisenson. Both of these have lots of exercises focussing on challenging words and consonant combinations.

Keep me posted with any resources you may discover.

Oh, and one last thought, I just read a wonderful book titled, "Lost in Translation" (No relation to the Bill Murray film), by Eva Hoffman. It is a wonderful account of a woman's search to own a new language and culture. Eva Hoffman immigrated from Poland to Vancouver, B.C. when she was a teenager. It's filled with insights on the relationship between language and self.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Performance Anxiety

Minutes before our class, I re-read a brief article on conquering the fear of public speaking written by Morton C. Orman, M.D.


I like his commonsense approach and his affirmation of the individuality of each speaker. I'm constantly awed by the confidence it takes to stand up in front of a group of people who are there to "critique the performance".

Today we shared, analyzed, made suggestions and re-worked individual presentations. I noticed that the sequence followed the usual pattern. The first presentation had it's usual special energy and excitement to it. The second re-working got a little sloppy (words were forgotten, etc.). The presenter was thinking about the changes, processing them, and making the adjustments his/her own. The final presentation then had a new energy, one of confidence and ease. Vocal inflections ceased to rise at the end of sentences and the material was no longer rushed. Even though the knowledge base hadn't changed in such a short time, the perception from the audience was that the presenter's knowledge of the material had grown.

Today one of the participants commented, "During the final presentation, there was a shift in the tone of my voice. It felt more genuine."

Maybe there is something to the old adage, "Practice makes perfect."

Don't write today, just practice.

Monday, June 4, 2007


Thoughts on a rainy muggy Monday in Vancouver.

After doing some subbing this morning for an actor's training program, I was struck yet again by the power of just letting go and breathing. I find it incredibly exciting to guide a group of people, who begin wracked with tension -- making it impossible for them to settle into their breath, to a place of relaxation. Suddenly they are able to breathe and speak in a slow and easy manner. Their faces soften and I feel like they are taking the time to really see and hear one another.

Now, get out your journal and your favourite pen. My question of the day is this:

Where can I make room in my schedule for more opportunities to relax and breathe?

*Check out Donna Farhi's "The Breathing Book" and don't miss the section on breath holding patterns. When I discussed the idea of reverse breathing with one of the students today she said she could finally feel precisely where she was holding her breath.


Welcome to the first installment of the Voice Werx blog!

I'm very excited to begin this forum to discuss, what else but, our voices. I've always been intrigued by our connection, or lack of connection, to our voices when we present, lecture, conduct workshops or just generally communicate!

So, in this first official post, a little about me. I'm an actor, voice instructor and resident Teaching Enhancement Specialist here at Simon Fraser University's Learning and Instructional Development Centre. I lead workshops for faculty in becoming stronger and more confident presenters.

I have a few reasons for creating this blog. Since most of my workshops are fairly short, participants are always hungry for further information. Well here's where we can share some great references. There are some wonderful websites that I will direct you to, some books I will advise you to peruse and some incredible instructors (my own) who I hope will join me every once in awhile by sharing their thoughts. Don't worry, I'll also post any exciting thoughts or revelations that come out of my sessions.

So, come back each week, or whenever you get a chance, and see what's new. We'll also be posting some fabulous podcasts that will explore breath, sound, allignment and more!

Glad you took a peak.

Sarah Louise Turner

P.S. As I am an avid journal keeper, I may throw a question up each week for you to ponder.