Jennifer Hamady is known as the “Voice Whisperer” and having worked with her, I can understand why! We’ve asked Jen, a speaker, author, educator, facilitator and mom, about her thoughts on the intersection of mind and voice, working with youth vs. CEOs, and more. Enjoy her wisdom!
1) Your professional training includes psychology. How does the mind affect how the voice comes out of our mouths?
We breathe and speak every day without a conscious thought, but ask most people to give a speech or sing, and things change dramatically. It’s the same instrument– the same lungs, vocal cords, and breath support system– but that instrument can easily get hijacked by fears and beliefs about our abilities, resulting in terrible sounds and experiences. Of course practice plays a part, but the mind is by far the most powerful instrument when it comes to speaking and singing.
2) So many people struggle with a fear of speaking in front of others – whether in a small staff meeting or in front of a large conference audience. Can you offer a simple tip to help folks with this “stagefright”?
It’s so true. Someone perfectly comfortable telling a joke at the family dinner table will clam up–and even panic– telling the same joke in a less personal or larger arena. The first thing I’d suggest is to do all you can to personalize your audience; to build camaraderie and connection. Many people in life, and certainly work, avoid intimacy as a matter of course. I’m not suggesting that you air out your dirty laundry or deepest secrets at the water cooler, but rather, to remember that we are all human, we are all connected, and we all generally want the same things. Focus on what makes us alike– the heart and hope in each person– and speak into that. There’s also no substitute for experience. Whenever you get a chance, present, speak, sing, or whatever it is that you do in front of other people. Our minds tend to panic about ‘the new’. When you make performing a regular affair, in time its becomes mundane to the mind… just another thing we do. With experience, we gain comfort and ease speaking to– and in time, really being with– people.
3) You have done a lot of work with youth. Can you give us an example of a conversation that changed you while working with young people?
I’ve thought a lot about your question and have had trouble coming up with an answer. Not because I can’t recall such a powerful conversation, but rather, because they have all been incredibly impactful. The passion, the vulnerability, the hurt and longing… the dreams, hope, energy and life inside the young men and women I’ve been honored to work and workshop with… I’ve left every interaction truly moved and inspired, and indeed, changed. Many of us ‘older’ folk have made peace with our lives and life paths, or conversely, have become resigned to them. There’s a fire in young people that inevitably kindles a flame in those with whom they connect and share. I consider myself blessed and honored to be someone who in the course of her work gets to be one of those people.
4) You have also been a voice coach for corporate CEOs. (Even CEOs need voice support!) How do you approach this type of coaching? Is it the same as any client who is struggling with feeling empowered to share a message?
I always begin– with every person with whom I work– by really listening to and for what they want to achieve, as well as what is in the way. Often, it helps to speak with some reference, energetic or otherwise, to people’s position or status, and I do so if it seems necessary to help them answer these questions and to be more present and comfortable in our work together. That said, at its core, my work is all about supporting people as they let go of fear, ego, and pride, so that they can find and embody their own power, peace, and passion. It’s vulnerable, beautiful work that involves stripping away far more than adding anything new. When clients– and we all– tap into that powerfully humble and open space, our best selves emerge. And we find that we are much more alike one another than different.
5) What book has inspired you the most this past year? Why?
I’m a voracious reader and go through a book or two– the old school, paper kind– a week. It’s therefore interesting that the most impactful book I’ve consumed this year is also my first ever audio book: Eckhart Tolle’s ’The Power of Now’. I can’t recommend it highly enough, and found the author’s reading of the text to be particularly powerful. I also appreciated ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama and ‘Promise Me, Dad’ by Joe Biden, and found Ben Sasse’s ‘The Vanishing American Adult’ to be an important read. Mary Oliver’s ‘Devotions’ has been my daily morning go-to for poetic inspiration. The Tao Te Ching is my nightstand evening check in.