In order to convey your thoughts, ideals, and beliefs to others in the most meaningful and influential ways, you must fully unlock the power of your voice. If you cannot speak clearly and confidently, then you might as well talk in front of an empty room. Dedicating her life to coach people in honing their voices is actor, presenter, and voiceover artist, Deanna Cooney. She joins Paul Higgins to share four effective ways to improve the way we talk and deliver content. Deanna also emphasizes the one important thing every excellent speaker must possess – the ability to listen well.
Maximizing The Power Of Voice With Deanna Cooney
Build Live Give. Mentoring With Paul Higgins
If it’s your first time and you loved it, please subscribe if you’re a regular, l love to get your feedback. You can go to PaulHigginsMentoring.com/Questions and leave me any feedback, questions that you’d have. You can also get full transcription of the show at PaulHigginsMentoring.com/Podcast. The person I’ve got on is going to talk about your greatest gift. It’s a gift that’s normally well-under-utilize. What do you think that gift is? That gift is voice. Amazon sent me a notification. I listened and I said, “Did you like your purchase three months ago of a t-shirt?”
They’re like, “Yes.” “Would you like to give a star?” It was all done by voice. That’s where the world is going. You need to have your voice standout. Our guest spent 25 years as a voiceover, also helping artists, people with acting, using their voice. In the last few years, she has coached people on it. She gives four brilliant steps of how you can sound better with your voice whether it’s to video or audio only. I took some great notes. You should as well. What I’ll do now is hand you over to Deanna Cooney.
Welcome, Deanna, to the show. It’s fantastic to have you here.
Thank you so much, Paul. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here. I’m excited to talk to you.
The first thing I’ve got to ask you is, are you okay because I know that Perth has had some huge fires in the last couple of weeks? Your family and friends are well with the fires.You must pay attention to what's coming back at you as it allows you to serve people well. Click To Tweet
I’m lucky that I live in a space that wasn’t impacted by the fires beyond having incredibly smoky days and ash falling from the sky, which was scary. It was interesting that it happened the week that we were in lockdown. It made it difficult for people because they were like, “Can I leave my house?“ The general consensus was yes. Getting away from a fire is more important than lockdown. Definitely leave if you need to. It was a scary few days and a lot of people lost their homes, but we came through it. I don’t have anyone in my immediate family or close friend group who were too badly impacted. I know people that had to leave homes and were able to go back to them. I’m glad we had the rain that we did that made a massive difference. Some of the footage was quite incredible. You know what it’s like when you see footage of areas after fires have gone through. There’s a strip of blackness and houses crushed and beautiful, vibrant green trees on the side. That’s amazing to look at.
Why don’t we go into something that your family or friends know about you that we may not?
I have a full on phobia of being underwater. You wouldn’t know that necessarily if you follow me on social media because I share plenty about the adventurous things I do in my life. I’m a rock climber. I scuba dive, I snow ski, all that kind of stuff. The scuba diving thing was a big challenge for me. I had to unlearn a bunch of deeply ingrained patterns and habits around being underwater. I spent a long time barely being able to put my face upwards in the shower to let waterfall on me. I didn’t even realize it was a deal until my partner said to me, “I want you to come scuba diving with me.” I’m like, “I can’t even snorkel. Put glasses on my face, put my face underwater, and I’m in full tilt visceral panic. Hardcore, get me out of the water now.” He’s like, “We have to get over this because I want you to come scuba diving with me.“ It was a two–year process of getting me used to having water on my face and learning that I could have a bit of water in my mouth and still breathe over the top of it, that I could control my mind and my body to the extent that I could dive. That’s one of the things that we do when we go on holidays.
Is there a condition? Is it old something?
It’s something that happened to me when I was a kid. You know what those things are like. It’s embedded when you’re a child and before you know it, you’re 40 years old and it’s running your life. I was underwater as a child doing somersaults in a river and I thought that I was going up and I was going down. I hit the bottom and had a moment of being sure that I was about to die. I was only in a couple of meters of water. It’s not bad or anything, but that moment of not knowing where I was underwater, hardwired some base level fear about being in that space.
I’m so glad you’ve come through it, but I must admit it’s not that drastic. I know the fear of voice, the fear of hearing on podcasts, the fear of speaking in a virtual summit, a webinar, some people have absolute phobia there. I don’t know it used to be speaking in front of crowds, but I think it’s moved now to more online. When people say, “Deanna, how do you help people overcome the fear of their own voice?” What do you do? How do you do it?
The approach needs to be split into two different things because there’s the psychology of how you feel and think about your voice and there’s the physiology of how you use your voice. The two things are intimately intertwined, but they need to be dealt at the same time but as separate things. Often what happens is people have an idea about their voice. Often people will say, “I should sound like this or I wish that I sounded like this.” What’s going on for them often is that they’ve decided that how they sound is wrong, either the words they use or the way their voice sounds. Someone said to them, “Your voice is too high-pitched. It sounds screechy or you’ve got a terrible vocabulary or I can’t understand what you’re saying.“ That stuff, like my fear of being underwater, it gets embedded into our psyche and our sense of self. There’s a lot of work that can be done to override that. Things like working out, what those thought processes are and tracing them back to their origins and going, “That was a seven-year-old me.”
How common is that? How many of your clients would have an experience in their childhood?
It’s pretty much everyone. Anyone who doesn’t feel vocal freedom, who isn’t able to express themselves freely, has some thoughts in the back of their head telling them that they don’t sound right. It’s important that you deal with that, first and foremost. Often what happens is when I deal with that with people, the other stuff goes away because the physiology is often tension related. Anytime we’re stressed, our physical tension increases and the muscles that we use to speak are small, delicate, highly responsive. You have tension in your big toe and it’s going to have an impact on how your voice comes out of you. That tension can be driven by thoughts or it can be driven by nerves. There are things that shut down your capacity to communicate openly and clearly. That’s what I work on with people.
Does it get exacerbated when people look to camera as well? I loved audio. Now I’ve gone to video episodes. In the first couple days, I was nervous and it brought back a lot of the nervousness I had when I first launched my show. Is that common?
Yes. There’s a certain freedom that comes with people not being able to see you. That is why you get keyboard warriors on the internet and why you get trolls on the internet because no one can see them and they feel able to express themselves however they like. There’s often nervousness when you first put yourself in a position where people can hear your voice, but the fact that no one can see you as you would have experienced, that nervousness tends to wash away after some time. You put yourself in a position where people can see you and all of that nervousness and all of that tension comes back again. There are two things going on there. There’s the nervousness about not being able to express myself the way I want to and then there’s the nervousness of do I look stupid.
Everyone always says, “I don’t want to look at myself or I don’t like the sound of my voice.“ If you’re reading this, you’re probably nodding your head because I think it is most of us and Deanna is a good proof in that. How many years you’ve been helping people as a voice coach?
I’ve been coaching officially for several months. I’ve been a teacher in the performative space around on camera presenting, acting modalities, and that kind of stuff for about five years. It’s surprising how much work we do on voice even when we’re dealing with on camera.
You’ve got loads of experience. Take us through like, “I’m about to go on a podcast,” and quickly the context around here. If you’re reading, guesting is a great way to amplify your thought leadership and your awareness. I have my shows and get amazing guests like Deanna on, but I also go on other shows to help others but also build my awareness. It’s a great strategy. You’re about to go for your first one and you don’t like the sound of your own voice. What are some tips that people can take from you to help them through that journey?There's a certain freedom when people cannot see your face. That's why keyboard warriors and internet trolls exist. Click To Tweet
There are some things that you can do for your own sense of self that are useful. You can do what I call a body scan tension release. You want to check yourself from your head to your toes and find those areas of tension that are in your body. It might be weird spots like your left butt cheek or maybe it’s your elbow. It could be that tension is anywhere in your body. What you want to do is when you find that place of tension, take a nice breath in. Breathe in gently and carefully. As you breathe out, focus on releasing the tension wherever it is. Scan your body and do that from top to toe. What it will do is ground you. It will put you in a place where you’re in your body instead of in your head. That’s incredibly useful when it comes to communicating well and being free in your communication. That tension scan is the first thing that I do.
Deanna, is that something that you do each day regardless or is it something that you do five minutes or an hour before the performance?
Personally, I do tension scans constantly. I’m always doing scanning my body for tension and finding where I’m holding something. It might be that one of my shoulders is lifted a little bit more than the other. I‘ll actively drop that shoulder, relax it and get my body into that loose, comfortable state. I do it as a normal part of my life, but I’ve focused very strongly on it before I’m performing in any way, whether it’s coming on this show with you or doing a voiceover job. I’ve been a voiceover artist and an actor for 25 years. That’s my big career history type of stuff. This is something that I do anytime. I’m going to be using my voice or performing in any way. That tension release is the first thing.
The second thing is to give yourself some time to warm up, hum, sing some songs, get your vocal chords loose and limber. The worst thing that you can do, I think is go from not talking for a while into speaking because your voice won’t be prepared. Your vocal chords are like the rest of your body. They need some blood flow. They need to be woken up. They need a bit of time to get into performance mode. Doing a warm up is a nice thing. All you need to do is be making noise. Humming is excellent, singing and it doesn’t matter if you don’t sing well. No one cares.
All you’re doing is waking up all of the muscles and all of your articulators. Do some tongue twisters. I find tongue twister excellent. They’re fun for starters. They’re silly. There’s no connection or requirement for you to say things that make sense. You can practice making noises. Tongue twisters are good. The more you get yourself into those tongue twisters, the more silly you look because you’re moving your mouth, heaps and heaps while you’re doing it, the more blood flow you’ll get to those articulator muscles and the looser and freer, all of that will be.
Before I meet you, I was working with an actor coach. She was on home and away. If you’re an Australian, you know that. If you’re in the UK, you’d know that as well. I don’t know if it made it that big in America. She gave me some warm up exercises, tongue twisters with Ls and certain sounds that I couldn’t hit well. The other thing is pushing your tongue into your chin and your bottom lip. I do those exercises before. We’ve had a body scan. We’ve had warm up. What’s the third thing?
The third thing is to take some long slow breaths. You need to oxygenate your brain. Anytime that you are under stress, you’ll breathe more shallowly. You become a shoulder, chest breather instead of a belly breather. It’s what stress hormones and stress chemicals do to us. They get us ready to run or fight. You don’t want to be going into some space where you’re using your voice and having a conversation ready to run or ready to fight. That’s not ideal. Box breathing is useful in this situation where you breathe into a count, hold it for that count, breathe out for that count, hold it for that count. You might breathe in for 3, hold for 3, breathe out for 3, hold for 3. What that does is settle your nervous system effectively and quickly and taking that oxygen deep into your lungs. As long as you‘re breathing into your belly, you’ll be taking that oxygen deep into your lungs and you’ll be getting good gas exchange and oxygen into your system so that your brain works well. If you’ve got no oxygen in your brain, it doesn’t work well. It goes into panic.
I find that yoga says to breathe one certain way. Other modalities say another, in through the nose, out through the mouth. What’s the technique?
It varies. When I’m speaking, I tend to breathe through my mouth all of the time. By speaking, I mean reading voiceover copy, talking on a show like this. Any environment where I’m using my mouth a lot, I will breathe only through my mouth. There are other people that will tell you breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. For me, one of the things that is important is having ready access to air and oxygen. It takes longer to get air in through your nose than it does through your mouth. This is on a functional level. I find having a relaxed jaw, an open mouth and breathing through my mouth while I’m engaging in this activity means that I’ve always got air available to me and I’m not opening and closing my mouth all of the time. I’m always ready to say what there is to say.
You’ve said a lot, given us three fantastic tips. Is there anything more that you’d like to give us before we go into the next section?
One more thing and that is, listen, be a listener. It sounds counterintuitive to be someone who’s doing some speaking, but a big part of speaking well whether you’re an interviewer and interviewee on a show, whether you’re speaking in front of a crowd. It’s important that you have your listening switched on as well as your speaking. That listening might be visual. It maybe that you’re standing in front of a crowd or you’re on a Zoom call and you’ve got 100 people watching you. It’s important that you pay attention to what’s coming back at you. Two things, one, it allows you to serve people well. The second thing is it gets you out of your own head. You stop thinking about what you sound like and you start thinking about what works best for the people that I’m speaking to.
I must admit. For me, I’m doing an online course at the moment, which a fellow Perth person’s helping me with. She happens to be living in Denmark at the moment. Maria Doyle, a big shout out to you. You’re a blessing. The thing that I learned is talking with your eyes into the camera but also talking to someone. Often, I would do a solo show and I’d talk to myself. I wouldn’t use those pauses and I wouldn’t ask the question of someone who’s listening or watching. That’s a part of listening too. You might not hear the response, but you’re asking for a response. That comes together well. They’re the four things, which is fantastic.
Before we move into the Live section, I’d like to talk about how you can find out if you’re going to have a high or low seven–figure business in 2021? We’ve got an assessment. You can go to PaulHigginsMentoring.com/Assessment. It’s 15 questions in 3 minutes to take you to finish those and give you a benchmark in what I consider as most important in growing the business versus what you got. There are no right or wrong answers. Based on your answers, we then set up a 45-minute call with you where we work through a plan. It’s not a sales call. It’s not a trap to get you in a sales call. It’s going through the assessment and giving you value. You go to PaulHigginsMentoring.com. A reminder for everyone, we’re having Deanna Cooney. It’s DeannaCooney.com.au. The next section is the Live section. What are some daily habits that help you be successful in life?
I have always been a fly by the seat of my pants girl. It’s funny. It wasn’t until I hired a business coach for myself several months ago that I started implementing daily processes. I cannot tell you the difference that it has made in my life.
Can you give us an example?
There are a few things that I do. One of them is I’ve started goal setting. It’s been life changing, not just business changing. The process that I go through is I set myself three-month goals based on three projects that I’m looking to work on over that three months. I break that down into monthly, the things that I want to tick off. If I want to achieve this in three months, what do I have to do in month three? What am I doing in month two? What am I doing in month one to get that done? Those monthly targets form my weekly task lists. Every week, I sit down and work out what I need to achieve over the next week and I schedule that into my calendar. I schedule it in ways where I have small groups, small chunks of time and large chunks of time. I used to try and get things done. I‘d get to the end of the week and I’d be like, “I got that done, but that one only got half done.”
Now what I do is give myself opportunities to work on something for 30 minutes and know that in that 30 minutes, that’s all I’m working on and that is going to get ticked. At least part of it is going to get tipped. There are other things that I know are going to take longer so I might allocate them 1.5 hour, but it’s amazing that by the end of the week, I am so much more productive than I used to be because I’m focused about what I’m trying to achieve.People who want to utilize their voice for a purpose fail to do so because of a lack of support and guidance. Click To Tweet
Do you time those blocks?
Yes. I use Google Calendar and in my little calendar. I get a little notification when it’s time to switch and I get a notification when it’s time to finish and go onto the next thing. Sticking to those has been amazing for my own sense of satisfaction but also my overall productivity. The first time I implemented this, I set my three monthly targets. It was about 2 weeks from the end of the 3 months and thought to myself, I haven’t looked at my 3 monthly goals in 6 weeks. I went back and had a look at them, they’re all done, which was amazing. The other thing that I do now, is I meditate regularly. It doesn’t happen every day, but it is something that I implement regularly, especially if I’m feeling overwhelmed. If at any point I’ve got a sense of overwhelm going on, what I have learned over the last several months is that overwhelm is easily impacted by ten minutes of quiet.
I highly recommend whether you listened to an app, whether you do it, however you do it. For me, sometimes swimming and counting my breaths when I’m swimming. That will be meditation. The next section is the Give section, charity or community that you’re passionate about and why?
There are a couple of things here. The group that I work with the most is actors and people who are looking to put voiceover skills into their repertoire of earning capacities. What I have found is that those people don’t have a lot of guidance. The people who are looking to make that transition and take their skills that they’ve developed in one space and utilize them in a different context, there’s not a lot of support there. It makes it difficult for people. They’re floundering watching YouTube videos and getting all of these disparate bits of information from all over the place. You know what it’s like with the internet based days. You can learn about anything online, but it can be difficult to know how it all goes together.
What I have found is that group of people they just need somebody to say to them, “Yes, you’re going in the right direction or no, try it this way.“ I get so much pleasure and enjoyment out of working with these people, whether they’re hiring me as a coach or it’s through free like master classes that I do or information that I give out through my social media. Being able to have an impact on those people is beautiful because what I’m doing is I’m helping them have access to do a thing that they love and I’m helping them have access to creative expression that they might not have had before that. It’s the best thing.
The last section is the Rapid Fire section, where I’ll ask you some questions and get some rapid fire responses. The first one is, what’s a piece of technology that is essential to running your business?
I would have to say my phone.
Which side of the fence are you on?
I’m an Android girl, all the way. PC and Android, all the way, always had been. I had a little exploration of the dark side for a while. I had an iPhone when it first happened and I changed my mind. I came back to Android.
I must admit I’m on the opposite, having to work in corporate for eighteen years with Microsoft that didn’t seem to let you down every step of the way. I’m on the Apple side. As far as personal effectiveness, you’ve talked about some great habits, but what are three top personal effectiveness tips you can give us?
For me, what’s important is staying aligned with what I stand for and what I’m trying to achieve. I get excited by things. It’s easy for me to disappear, chasing the bright, new, shiny thing that pops up. I regularly check in with myself and make sure that I’m operating in a way that is aligned with my bigger picture. Other personal effectiveness things, get plenty of sleep. If I don’t sleep, I’m useless. I need to make sure that I’m drinking water and eating appropriately. I know they’re not necessarily business-related things, but my effectiveness disappears if I’m tired, dehydrated, I don’t have enough food. I have to stay on top of those things. I like to exercise. If I don’t exercise, I go a little bit crazy.
There’s a great reader to this show. She talks about the CEO of you. You are the business, but if you’re not healthy, generally your business is unhealthy. What’s the best source of new ideas for you?
It would be the community that I was talking about before. All you have to do is ask the people that you’re working with, that you serve or that you’re interested in supporting. They’ll tell you what they need. I regularly say, “What do you need? Who needs what?” That helps me decide what I might want to do next.
The last question is a big question. It’s why I leave it to the end. What impact do you want to leave on the world?
If all I did was give people access to owning their own voice, being comfortable and happy with how they sound and how they express themselves, I will be the happiest person on the planet. There are so many people out there that are shut down around how they use their voice. It’s stopping them from being able to share a beautiful message or help somebody else. They’ve got something amazing inside of them that are going to benefit the world and they feel like they can’t share that because of some idea they have about their voice. If I can smash that stuff to smithereens, I’ll be a happy girl.
You’ve given four fantastic tips to help everyone. You’ve kindly also said that people can get in contact with you directly when they’re struggling. If they’ve got a podcast coming up, a virtual event, they’ve got to go to camera, which we’re all doing more and more, you can help. It’s DeannaCooney.com.au. Deanna, thanks for being here. It was a pleasure listening to your tips. I’ve written them down and I’ll be implementing some of them.
Thank you so much, Paul. I appreciate the opportunity to come and talk to you and talk to all of your readers. I love your show. I’m blessed in place to have been part of it. Thank you very much.
Have a great day. Thanks.
As a podcaster, I enjoyed that. The four tips that Deanna gave were fantastic and I think they can use it. We spoke about at the end of the show about the benefit of your voice. It’s what helps you share your impact. I must admit, I’ve struggled with being on camera. I’ve struggled with sharing my voice but she gave me some nice feedback at the end. It’s about practicing but it’s getting help. Go to someone and get some help. If it’s Deanna, go to Deanna because she can help you share that voice. You go back and read my first couple of episodes and you’ll see the difference that has been.
I’ve been doing it every day, but I’ve also been getting some help on how to improve it. You can also let Deanna know what the takeaways were. She’s got a lot of effort to share her knowledge. If you loved it, share it with her and also share it with your friends and your network as well that you know they’re struggling to get their voice out. You can also email her directly at [email protected]u. If you’d like to have a high seven-figure business, go to PaulHigginsMentoring.com/Assessment. Take time to Build, Live and Give.
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About Deanna Cooney
Deanna Cooney is an actor, presenter & voice over artist. She has worked consistently for over 20 years, with a career spanning film, theatre, television and radio. She is currently presenting West TV’s weekly current affairs program, Undercurrent plays a cage-fighting prisoner in Australian feature film BELOW, and will be seen in Season 2 of ABC TV’s The Heights.
With a voice over career covering just about every type of VO out there, she brings versatility and great performance to every read, and professionalism and ease to the studio experience. Deanna has her own voice over recording facilities as well as access to multiple pro studios in Perth.
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