Q&A with Jane Oakshott

What made you become a voice coach?

I've always been fascinated by words, voice and languages - voice is universal, words are what make us human. Everyone has a voice, and helping people trust and use their voice effectively - to move an audience to laughter or tears - is really exciting and positive.  And no two days are the same!

How do you help someone be more confident as a speaker?

Everyone lacks confidence sometimes! And it can be a real blight on performance.  It often hides under feelings such as; “my accent's holding me back”, “I talk too fast” or “I can't make an impact in meetings”.  Fortunately, working towards relaxed and clear speech involves practising the physical aspects of confidence:  and those aspects feedback into the brain.  So the inevitable side effect of voice coaching - is confidence.

What challenges have you experienced as a speaker and performer yourself, and how did you overcome them?

I used to be embarrassed at how ‘little girly’ I sounded. So I had coaching during my MA, good teaching on breath support that made a huge difference to the resonance and sound quality. And the exercises for more flexible, crisper diction stopped that awful feeling of tripping over or swallowing words. 

How does your work as a writer and performer help your work as a voice coach?

Being a writer helps with content; suggesting ways to keep sentences short, how to keep listeners on track by links, how to create interesting cadences, where to put natural breath pauses, etc. Being a performer means I fully understand the crippling power of nerves:  and, at the other end of the scale, how to use breath to transport your audience to wherever you want.

What’s the most thrilling aspect of your work, the really special moments?  

Helping people shine is thrilling. And the ‘lightbulb’ moments are special; when someone suddenly gets an idea or a technique, or even just realises how to.  And perhaps even better - when someone with a public speaking phobia is suddenly flying and realises it's more than just okay, they're really enjoying being up there. Often, it's people that are most scared who are potentially the best communicators.