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Say YES! to finding your voice

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Say YES! to finding your voice

A couple of years ago I invited Shauna Macdonald, a friend and actor, to deliver a training session to my teammates. The session was called ‘Find your voice’.

Even though I am a communications professional, in the past I have been worried about my voice. I’ve lived in many places over my life, so my eclectic accent is often remarked upon, whilst the person asking attempts to place my roots. In the past, the dreaded “where are YOU from?” question would make me cringe instantly and I’d normally start apologising for myself. Another reason to have the dreaded imposter syndrome, the fear of not fitting in and not belonging.

Shauna taught us excellent public speaking methods, taken from her personal experience of being a successful actor. The techniques she taught us were far from the norm for this type of training, but importantly, she also asked the team to examine our internal vulnerabilities.


What lessons did I learn?

I have learnt that my voice, my personality and what I choose to say is very much part of enjoying and delivering a decent presentation. For you, it might not be about your actual voice, but perhaps about owning what you wish to say.

  • The best speakers are people who allow themselves to be vulnerable, which in turn opens them up to possibility. My favourite famous speaker is Brene Brown and comms peer is Jude Tipper. They both speak from the heart, excellent storytellers and are very open in their approach.
  • Finding and using your true voice means your audience cannot help but connect with you.
  • Don’t be afraid to show your personality when you present. Having confidence in who you are as a person, your local accent or local dialect should be encourage. dIt’s ok to be vulnerable. An audience isn’t going to enjoy a formal speaker who obviously just wants the presentation to be over.
  • Smile when receive a question you don’t know the answer to. It’s completely fine to be honest and human whilst telling them you will find out the answer. Everyone loves an open smiling friendly face.
  • Handle the tricky moments with poise and grace. Use your breath to regulate. Take the sip of water whilst you plan how to respond to something that challenges you. You are in control – it’s your presentation. It’s why you have been asked to speak.
  • Be human and don’t be afraid to use humour and show your warmth.


Everyone is unique

Each one of us had our own personal reason as to why we feared public speaking or presenting. For me, it was that my accent was unusual and I was far from where I once came. This was on top of the usual imposter syndrome most of us feel at some point. Another was her broad local accent, which she felt should be more refined because of her seniority. One of the team was bullied severely whilst publicly speaking at school, a traumatic experience they found very hard to move on from. In short, we all had our own story for why we feared speaking, why we dreaded using our unique voices in public.

It is totally true that we need to be prepared when we speak publicly. Get the fundamentals right and you are half way there…

  • We should absolutely rehearse as if we were on stage.
  • Know what your objective is.
  • Know how to pitch and pace your speech by learning a few tips from a professional.
  • Finding your voice when presenting means it does not have to be a boring routine you have to get through. Not something you need to survive.
  • You can learn to embrace your voice and your uniqueness when you are speaking. I promise you it will shine through.


So, if you dread or fear using your voice, whether that relates to public speaking or in other ways, I encourage you to also say yes to finding your voice this #YESvember.

“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.” Dr Suess.

By Leanne Hughes, Comms Specialist, NHS Lothian for Alive!

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Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

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Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

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Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

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Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

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Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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