Casey Erin Clark and Julie Fogh, are not only business partners, but they are also the other sides of each other’s brands. The two former actors, who discovered one another at a meditation workshop, believe the right voice can mean the difference between success and failure in business. Their company, Vital Voice Training, which launched two years ago, is dedicated to helping both men and women improve their communications skills in the workplace.
“Our shared backgrounds and philosophies about voice made us really powerful partners and the rest fell into place so naturally,” says Clark. “We believe in using your voice to bring different parts of yourself to the table.”
The duo’s first gig was a workshop that the two designed in just six weeks.
“It was called “what does authority sound like,” says Clark. “It was about examining emotional and mental components to sounding authoritative, deconstructing that and finding a way to find your authentic voice, combining your ideas and emotional intelligence, and bringing that to the table in an authentic way.”
After that first workshop, “it was off to the races,” as Fogh says, adding that their clients have been featured in top magazines and even made presentations at the White House. “We knew we were onto something. We found that our work was deeply satisfying and since then the clients we’ve had that have stunned and amazed us. The more people that we meet, the more we see it’s a lot of the same issues that over and over again. Authenticity is magnetic and access to it is the most powerful thing a person can do.”
1. Why is your voice so important in terms of business success?
Voice is an oft overlooked piece of your personal brand. There is so much advice out there about how to dress and carry yourself but the sound of your voice and how you communicate is such a crucial piece of how you are seen in a board room. It goes also to the words you speak but there has to be real alignment in your physical presentation and the sound you are conveying. That’s what makes you charismatic, that’s what makes you believable, that’s what makes good rapport in the office. Your voice is your aural fingerprint. It represents everything you’ve ever experienced. Head, heart, body, the power when you connect, you see someone come alive. It’s like plugging in the Christmas tree.
2. How can a person be authentically themselves but still be seen as professional?
Any iteration of authenticity is a combination of you and your given circumstances. You cannot ignore your circumstances, but that doesn’t mean you have to be someone else. It means you have to be attuned what that environment is asking of you. Authenticity is such a buzzword that it’s become almost meaningless and people have a negative idea of it. It’s a fixed idea of “this is who I am and I don’t care.”
That’s not authenticity, that’s rudeness. We have different aspects of our personality and someone’s one aspect will serve me better than another, so I bring one forward and let the other take a back seat. It doesn’t mean I hide or reject any of part of who I am.
The ultimate way to have presence is feel your body, feel your feet on the floor and breath deeply into your back, which is where the majority of your lungs exist.
3. What are some of the biggest mistake people make in public speaking?
The biggest mistake is when people try to lower their voice to sound authoritative. It’s not about deep voice, it’s about full voice. It’s not about being loud, it’s about being heard and connecting to your audience. If you have an idea in your head of what you’re supposed to sound like or how you’re supposed to act, and you are putting that in the room rather than being present in the room and responding as a human, there will be a disconnect. Don’t have a checklist of things to go through and instead by vulnerable and really listen.
4. But how can you be present when your mind is concerned with the task at hand?
We spend so much time trying to control conversations and how we are seen by the world, that we forget presence it is key and crucial. It also makes us vulnerable. Tension is a mechanism in the body that protect us from being fully present and that’s fine. When it comes to the idea of letting go of control, it can be very difficult. But when you switch your perspective from controlling the situation to telling yourself “I know I can sit in my chair and feel gravity” everything changes. The ultimate way to have presence is feel your body, feel your feet on the floor and breath deeply into your back, which is where the majority of your lungs exist. Doing this brings you back into the room and that’s when the most inspiring communication happens.
5. What’s a quick and easy way to sound better when communicating?
The number one thing that people don’t do is they don’t breathe. We talk a lot about the fact that your lung space exists almost twice as much in back than front but because of stress habits, we don’t connect with them. If you can it signals to your nervous system that you are OK and you will speak more clearly and be more present. The moment you breathe into your back you come alive.
We’ve been taught a lot about “belly breath” in yoga, but the lungs are not in our stomachs. We are not taught to think of ourselves as 360 degree beings, but the fact is we are 3D creatures. Getting just a hint of that into your own consciousness can up your power by multitudes.
6. What’s the biggest concern that your clients come to you with?
The most common thing we get asked is “Am I too X” This is everything from “Am I too loud to quiet?” to “Do I speak too quickly?” to “Is my accent too strong?” Everyone always wants to know how they are being perceived by others. At Vital Voice, we don’t believe you are “too” anything. If you are reaching out to us, chances are you are ambitious and you want to get to the root of the problem and fix it.
Our first message is always “you aren’t broken.” You don’t have to be fixed. You have to shift from what you need to do to doing less, and trusting yourself more, because that’s how you will be effective. Usually it’s the trying so hard that’s the problem.
We also tell our clients there is no quick fix; so many little mental shifts have to happen. The ability to practice something until you can let go of it is not even a skill that people learn. People think if you practice it you locked it in stone, but actually it’s the key to let it go.
7. Can you speak a little about women in the workplace? How can they speak up without being seen in a negative light?
I want the whole conversation to shift from women being labeled as bitches or aggressive because they speak up in a business setting. We’ve heard it again and again, and we even saw it in the election. It’s more important than ever for women to normalize speaking up and normalize expressing themselves. When you hear a sexist statement, the more we speak up and say “that’s inappropriate and unacceptable,” those who do speak will become less marginalized. It takes a certain amount of bravery and emotional labor. The more women realize that there is no a perfect standard to meet in terms of personality type, the more you are able to explore alternative responses to dealing with sexism. If you are going to be penalized no matter what then the game doesn’t exist.
8. Speaking of the election, do you have any tips for sidestepping awkward conversations?
9. Do you have any tricks for combating nervousness?
10. What are some voices that inspire you.
Being stared at by strangers is something I have become very accustomed to. Not because I am a beautiful, ethereal being that catches everyone's attention (but I will take it if that's what you're thinking), but in the way that I am a Black woman, a Black person, and people tend to notice my presence. I don't think there is a Black person out there that can deny knowing what it's like to be stared at by a random person.