microphone, blue background, vintage microphone

“Forget the microphone. Speak to me. Like a friend.”

Lionel Logue to King George VI, The King’s Speech

When you have difficulty speaking, your ability to communicate suffers along with your self-esteem. This is especially true if you rely upon your voice to do your job, particularly as a brand storyteller or performer. King George VI of England developed a stammer (stutter) when he was about five years of age. Over the course of his youth, the prince’s stammer worsened and became part of his day to day life.

Bertie, as his family called him, found ways to cope with his stammering. Only those closest to him knew his struggles.

That all changed once he entered more fully into public life and had to speak to large crowds.

Addressing en Masse

Speaking into a microphone to engage thousands of people was a relatively new means of projecting the human voice. Marconi put a department in place dedicated to public address and began making loudspeakers and amplifiers to meet demand. Bertie’s father, George V used such as system in 1925 at the British Empire Exhibition, addressing 90,000 people via six long-range speakers.

Using a microphone, as you can imagine, was particularly trying and unnerving for a stammerer, as Albert was. The young George VI made many announcements via live address, including a broadcast declaring war on Nazi Germany. All of these speeches were live, and quite painful for him.

The King’s Speech

In “The King’s Speech,” Geoffrey Rush took on the role of Lionel Logue, an Australian speech and language therapist. While Logue was without medical credentials as a therapist, his background as a trained actor equipped him to help clients like George VI master their voice and the words they spoke. Part of his toolkit when treating his patients was to get them to sing out their words. Another proven strategy was asking them to listen to loud music while reading from a book.

Logue understood that to get someone to speak without inhibition, he needed to distract them from their fears and insecurities. To fully overcome though, healing needs to take place. The ideas is to remember that even if there’s a microphone, you need not be afraid.

How Might a Voice Lose Control?

There are many different reasons for why one’s voice might give out. Some of those include:

  • Medical
  • Self Confidence
  • Past trauma

In a Sound Stories podcast interview with Jocelyn Rasmussen, vocal coach and performer, she shared how your voice is deeply connected to your mind, body and soul. Fear, stress, trauma and unresolved issues in our lives can also affect vocal production in more ways than we realize. Deep pain that festers within, even subconsciously, has a way of interfering with the instrument and bringing one’s very best to a performance.

Looking back at George VI, his ability to change and grow came once he understood that he could speak well and it was up to him.

Overcoming Challenges is Possible

To overcome a stammer, one must begin to see how the stammer does not define you. The same is true in other areas of the creative life and life in general.

Think about the story you want to tell. Will it be one of triumph or tragedy?

The way we think of ourselves strongly impacts how we behave and how others see us and how they respond. By living the story you want to tell, you’re well on your way to slaying the dragons that keep you from success.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I really love this, Stephanie. As a VO Coach, I often implore the “forget the mic” point by unknowing to the talent, recording portions of our casual conversation. I’ll start a session with “How was your weekend?” and set the “secret” recorded response aside. If I hear the talent sound stilted, tense, labored, or whatever the issue, I play back the talent’s relaxed conversation. I merely say- “And that’s what you sound like when you’re relaxed, and speak naturally.” It’s often an “A-ha” moment when the files are played side-by-side. Tommy Griffiths

  2. One of the most inspiring stories regarding this is Bill Waltons example how we can achieve our dreams. After months of practice, dedication, and sacrifice, Bill not only gained the ability to speak, he found his way back to the game he loved through sports broadcasting. He even got a chance to try out as a broadcaster with NBC Sports. How cool is that? 🙂

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