6 Steps to Harness Energy for Vocal Power
How Green is Your Voice?
We all want to be green. But as Kermit so wisely said, “it’s not easy being green.” Especially for people who have to get up and speak or sing in front of others. For us, energy efficiency is the ability to focus nerves, adrenaline, thought, talent, hopes, dreams, worries, feelings, training, and expectations into one perfect channel of skillful energy with poise and confidence … and impact.
6 Steps to vocal energy efficiency
1. Clarify Intention
Many people have learned to center by becoming more mentally focused. A focus on intention is one approach. What is your intention for the talk or performance? The intention is so strong that babies as young as 6 months of age can detect intention in adults. Others can feel it, even when unspoken. In the book, The Complete Singer Actor, Wesley Balk says, “The article of faith is: what the mind can conceive will be created so long as tension does not interfere with the process.”
2. Observe and Identify Tension
You cannot change a behavior of which you are not aware, so the first step is to see if you have energy that is being wasted. Here are 4 signs of poor use of your energy resources:
- Fidgeting or wiggling extremities and/or Pacing back and forth while speaking or singing
- Nervous ticks or repetitive physical motions
- Strong emphasis of words with your head and upper body as you speak or sing.
- Lots of the above accompanying a voice that is not as loud as one would expect.
Balk says that extraneous movement “is caused by a fear that what is happening will not be communicated,” and the performer “does more than is necessary, usually displaying tension in the facial or bodily muscles of the vocal mechanism.” This tension acts to divert energy from the place where you need it.
3. Be still
Once you understand how your energy is being wasted or poorly harnessed, you need to stop any and all extraneous movement except breathing and speaking. Notice how stillness feels. You may feel uncomfortable being still, but do it anyway.
4. Practice Breathing
Begin to move, but keep the movement centered. First, take a few deep low breaths. This is a good time to focus on proper, efficient breathing technique. To breathe efficiently, sit up straight and raise your arms over your head. Then relax your abdomen and push your stomach out as you breathe in through your nose. When you exhale, tighten your abs and exhale through your mouth. Repeat this 5 times. Here is a guided exercise you can use to continue working on breathing. As you do, feel how deep, centered breathing can calm and focus you.
5. Trick Yourself into Focus
Get help. Have someone hold your shoulders so that you can feel if you are wasting energy. Then have them continue to hold your shoulders while you practice your talk or song. Do this until you stop any indicating or over gesturing or wanting to pace– in other words, until you feel yourself start to channel your energy into your voice and words.
Do something strange. In a terrific book by music instructor Eloise Risted, she encourages singers who can’t harness their energy, to do something crazy, like stand on their head until they are free from the habits that create tension and block their energy. If you are stuck in a pattern that zaps your power, try doing something completely whacko while practicing. Once you get a feeling that you have tricked yourself into a better pattern, go back to your usual stance, of course.
Get feedback. We cannot see ourselves. We cannot hear ourselves. Sometimes, watching a recording will help us catch what is getting in our way. And sometimes, the only way to get it is for someone else to tell us what we are doing. As leadership guru Ken Blanchard says, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” Use it to learn to harness your energy.
6. Put focus into practice
Finally, you are not going to improve if you don’t practice and then apply what you’ve learned. Work on this behind the scenes and then apply it to your appearances. Your voice and message will be stronger than ever, and you will probably love the feeling of channeling energy. It’s kind of fun. And what are your suggestions for getting focused and harnessing your energy? Please leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter. You can also check out Vocal Impact’s Twitter for daily quotes and thoughts on communication.
In an earlier post, I provided a test to find out if you are wasting energy. If you haven’t done that, take it now to find out how green your voice is and where you need to work on the 8 steps above.