Find Your Voice with Coach Cynthia Zhai

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Cynthia is a Voice Coach, Speaker and Author. She has helped business professionals and professional speakers from 46 countries across 5 continents with their voice to speak with impact and conviction, engages and inspires people to embrace change and take action.

Cynthia has been a professional speaker and coach for the past 17 years and her engagement spans 4 continents in countries as U.S., Finland, The Netherlands, Argentina, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macau, mainland China, India, Brunei, Vietnam and The Philippines.

Cynthia has appeared in U.S.A Discover Your Talent Show, Singapore Radio Program 938Live 4 times, Hong Kong Radio 3, and Malaysia Business Radio Station BFM as a guest speaker on the subject of Voice.

Victor Ahipene: Speaking nation, what’s happening? Welcome to another episode of public speaking secrets. I’m your host Victor. He opinion today I am probably going to get schooled and taught a thing or two because I may not be announced creating or inflicting or whatever it may be with my voice. But we’ve got Cynthia Zhai who is a voice coach and an absolute expert when it comes to helping people, not just where she’s from, but all around the world, multiple different countries. She’s spoken from stages and helped people, uh, speak with a more powerful voice, become a more engaging in a more confident speaker. So it’s absolutely on. I’m really excited to have Cynthia said, welcome to the show.


Cynthia Zhai: Yay. I’m excited to be on the show.


Victor Ahipene: I mean we’ve all got our own journey. It’s really interesting hearing different people’s journeys on how they became, yeah. It’s not like you’re sitting there in years. You’re six years old and your parents were like, Cynthia, what do you want to be when you grow up? And you’re like, I think I want to be a voice coach and travel the world and help people and do things like that. So how did it all kind of come together with you to get to where you are at the moment?


Cynthia Zhai: When I was six years old, so when I was asked this question, I said I wanted it to be a teacher. So today what I do kind of related to teaching and why I decided to do the voice is because that, you know, you’ve heard of this science that we teach. The things that we needed to learn the most and ways was one of the areas that I needed to learn the most when I graduated from college. And that was my first in my first job, I realized the importance of the voice. And uh, I was not heard. I was not assertive. So that’s where I want on the journey to develop my own voice.


Victor Ahipene: And did that we were the first steps and taking that journey. I mean it again, it’s still, it’s still way a thing that I’m sure a lot of people can resonate with it and I’m sure with the people that you work with and then there’s a lot of people who were, who are and where we are, you are in the sense like, I need to be heard. I’ve got a message I’ve got, yeah, I’m an expert. I’ve got all authority in some space, but people just aren’t hearing me. I’m the best kept secret all the way up to someone who’s, yeah. This confident charismatic speaker, but still maybe leaving, you know, 10, 15, 20% impactfulness if that’s even a word on, uh, on the, on the table because they’re getting up and delivering a keynote presentation or delivering to their team and yeah, they’re not maximizing their voice. So how did you, are you start that their journey to start trying to find your voice? Because I’m sure there’s confidence as part of it and yes.


Cynthia Zhai: Yeah. Yeah. For me, you know, because at the time before, actually I even thought about working on voice, I did, uh, perform in singing. And also I’ve learned was radio stations and those voice actress, but still that I wasn’t able to protect my own voice. And, uh, in the beginning I was thinking it’s probably more about the personality because I was, and I still am an introvert, but now I’m a, I’m a happy introvert. So, and so I thought it was the personality that I needed to be more outgoing. So I, what I started with was all kinds of self-improvement workshops and self-improvement progress. And that’s where I started. So as I started who go along, that’s where I started to um, meet different teachers, like teachers in Somatics, the body teachers in acting. And so I work with all kinds of things that helped me in many ways, shaped my own voice.


And not only does the outer voice, the physical voice, but also the inner voice. So that’s where, that’s where it’s actually a holistic way of me improving myself. Yeah. And, uh, what actually came to mind to do voice teaching voice coaching was that when I was doing my last job, which was training people on communication leadership, that’s where people started asking me about my voice. And because over the years with all kinds of training my voice in a way, in the deeper range, so there are people asking me, they said, how can I develop a deep voice? And but then, it was for leadership. So that’s why I realize, oh, okay. It looks like that they are people looking for developing their voice. So when I started to decide to go out and start something on my own, that’s where I started, uh, decided to do.


Victor Ahipene: Yeah. Nice. What I find really interesting is a good point that you brought up is the, the misconception of introverts and extroverts. When it comes to presentation. I’ve, I’m a big, big follower and fan of Tim Ferriss, the four hour workweek author, and he’s pretty self-proclaimed introvert. AJC gives it, gets up and gives a keynote presentation and then he’s exhausted in the hardest bit of the presentation afterwards, networking with everybody who’s listened. He’s like, it drains, it drains the energy out of them. He just wants to go and sit and chill and be by himself.


Whereas as say someone like myself, I’m quite extroverted and I get re-energized after the event talking to everybody and yeah, I love having that conversational side of things then yeah. When it comes to the actual speaking side of things is that it doesn’t matter if you’re introverted or extroverted. This, I think personally just pros and cons with both. There’s a lot of experience. We’ll get off topic, they’ll talk too much about a particular thing. They might come across as confident, but it doesn’t mean their messages impactful if it’s not packaged in the right way. And I mean, yes, it’s a powerful part of it. So let’s, let’s dive in. I mean, you’ve already touched on a few things. The internal voice, the external voice, that holistic approach. People who, first off, I guess let’s, let’s define what would people out there looking to improve their voice? What are the, the, the signs of a, the reasons why they’d want to improve their voice and um, I guess highlighting to them, yeah, this has potential for reasons that you might want to improve your voice?


Cynthia Zhai: Yes. Most people came to me it was because that they were giving a speech and then they realize that their voice is not powerful enough. It doesn’t project these kind of authority that they, they have. So that was one of the main reasons that they came to me. And then they realize, or either that or voice is monotonous or for some of my extroverted clients, they speak too fast and then they realize that they are also not having the impact that they want. So he’s because of the speeches, the presentations that they give, they realize all kinds of voice problems they have.


Victor Ahipene: Yeah. And so let’s dive into this internal versus external voice that you’re talking about. Run us through. I guess what my main, I think the external voices potentially understandable. But like if you could run us through what both of those voices look quite Quinn, it comes to, uh, when it comes to speaking and delivering.


Cynthia Zhai: Okay, sure. So the external voice, which is the physical voice, the voice, most of the Times people will realize the problems, for example, when they are numbers, their voice maybe trembling. So that’s the external voice that we can work with. And also problems like they are speaking with a very soft voice and people couldn’t hear them. So these are all external voice problems and these are the problems that we can in a way we can solve them. And the inner voice is about more about, you know, who you are, you know what you can provide, provide, you know, what you can offer to the world, you know your value and your value is also being, uh, being searched for by people around the world. So that’s the inner voice and the Ex, uh, outer voice.


Victor Ahipene: Is that self-talk and that confidence that you need to need to have in yourself to then be able to have, if you’ve got south doubt and you’re talking, it’s going to reflect in your external external voice. What are the, what are the key mistakes or errors you see, not necessarily mistakes, but things that you see consistently doing, uh, when they first come to you in to the external voice, like have their particular things that people would, uh, is it majority of the moment notness uh, to quiet, uh, you aren’t using infliction. What, what, what sort of things are there that people constantly have?


Cynthia Zhai: Okay. So one of the biggest sentence that people have, the challenge for us is that they find when they are nervous or even when they’re stressed, their voice starts to tumble or they are so gets tight or they feel breathless. So this is one of the most common challenges and the other one is yes. So the other one is that they find when it’s a bigger audience, they cannot predict their voice and they have to shout. But some clients they don’t want to shout. So then they have this kind of dilemma. They are not heard but they don’t want to shout. So that’s another common problem. And the third one, third one is uh, is also quite common that people speak very fast and uh, the audience, they wouldn’t be able to fall in that.


Victor Ahipene: And going back to that first one, trembling or tightness to, sorry, what are some steps that listeners can implement straight away? They can go, hey, that’s me. That’s me with it little over it. Every time I get up there, I’m trembling, uh, or my, my throat, my chest feels tight. What are some things that people can start implementing straight away to, to notice a change?


Cynthia Zhai: Okay. Um, they may not be able to implement, um, they, they, they will be able to implement or they may not be able to see a big change because first we need to know that why their voice is trembling because that the voice projection is very shallow, is mainly coming from the throat area, voice box throat all the way up. So their whole body is not engaged in a voice production. And that’s why when you’re nervous, it’s very easy to get all the tension on your throat and your voice where it become trembling. And to overcome that problem, we are actually shifting the production. We need to shift the projection on the throat area to the body. So when they’re able to do that, they will not, even if there are numbers in the future, they would still be numbers. Even if their numbers, their voice will not be trembling.


So that’s actually a long term process for them to change that right now where they can do is, um, this is actually something that people always do the opposite. So when I notice my clients, well, uh, I asked him, I said, okay, when we were voices tumbling, what did you do? They said, I take another breath in, which is the opposite of what I would say yes. So if the listeners, they have this similar situation where they can do is to read out, not breathing when they feel that their voice is going to be trembling, they need to breathe out, breathe out first, and they breathe out attention first and then they take a quick and quiet breath in. Then they continue to speak.


Victor Ahipene: Yeah. And this isn’t a year you get into that kind of hyper ventilating state if a few initial messages and it just kind of adds to it. And I think that the other good thing about that, that tip is it’s going to, and I think something that people need probably need to understand is taking a breath is good when you’re giving a presentation, you know, as not necessarily taking it in, but giving that time to, oh, I’m feeling trembling at allows your audience to take in what you’ve just said and allows you to reset. And just get your breathing a bit more normalized. And I think it’s a, it’s a great action step for people to be able to, to do, uh, to make change because we often do it and it can even be on a phone call that you’ll notice when you feel uncomfortable.


And I’ve heard a lot of sales coaches say if you’re not confident about what you’re selling and the way that you’re selling it at reef, it’s going to reflect in your voice. The person on the other end of the phone or on the opposite side of it is going to pick up on that. So I think that’s a great actionable point when it comes to the larger audiences and projecting your voice and their dilemma. You talked about the internal dilemma that some people, yeah, they don’t want to speak loudly but they need to speak loudly. How did they ever come in and then what are some tips on the projection side of things for the voice?


Cynthia Zhai: Yes. So what they can do is number one of course they need to avoid because shouting is damaging to the vocal cords and also is dominating to the listener’s ears. And would they need to do is they need to learn the proper production, which has, uh, again, shit, the production from the sewed by using the bar. So what we mean by using the body at one year is that they need to learn how to with operating, because most people, I will say that about 92 to 95 presented the population are breathing in their own way. So they need to learn the popcorn breathing, which is using the support of that I diaphragm. And once the proper breathing becomes a habit, then they will need to learn. Now how do I generate war? Voice? More voice is more vibration. So they need to create more vibration in the body. Then they will be able to speak with a stronger voice without shouting.


Victor Ahipene: It’s the people don’t realize your diaphragm is a muscle and it’s a really powerful muscle for articulation and for amplification and for all those different things that you, yeah, like you say, you don’t have to put more effort and you just have to use what you’ve got more effectively. I think that’s there. I mean, I’m not sure you’ll have a lot more knowledge in this space, but, or a lot of those ones who are, have that dilemma of I don’t want to speak louder. It’s because they feel like they don’t want to shout more so than they don’t want to project themselves naturally as I like, shouting is not natural for me. I don’t want to do it, therefore I’m not going to do it. And you know, once you can, I think if you know, no doubt you take your clients through that transition of, but you don’t have to shout, you can still be you.


You can move on to the next level. We just need to show you how you can breathe more effectively. It’s going to make you louder. It’s going to make you and allow you to be natural. Like if you can carry on being yourself with maybe a little bit percent increase, you’re going to, you’re going to make that continued transition. And for our third point, um, I’m trying to try to remember what it was. So he hit the, uh, we had obviously the shouting. Yeah. And the trembling and then from the third mistake, uh, what was that again and how the get people to overcome that?


Cynthia Zhai: Yes. So the third problem is that people tend to speak very fast. And, uh, so how do we manage that is not to ask them to tell themselves, oh, slow down, slow down. So that’s what my clients tried, but it never worked for long. And so what we do is, because you will notice that people who speak fast, one is that our voice is also shallow from here too, is they are not articulating. What we do is one these again, to help them shift the production from the filter to the body. So once you can do that, your rate of the speed will be slower at the same time. Uh, they are also working on articulating, not articulating every word. Not every word needs to be articulated. They need to articulate those keywords in the sentence. So when they are able to do that, their message is clearer. There are rate of the speech is slower and also they brings out more, they bring out more impact.


Victor Ahipene: Yeah, I think that’s awesome because I know the less prepared I am for a presentation, not as in like sitting there practicing it. But if someone was to say, can you jump up and give an impromptu speech or something of some, so I’ll verge, particularly being a New Zealand, the New Zealand is in Australians, we tend to speak a lot quicker and a lot of northern hemisphere countries and so it’s that problem. Plus, yeah, when you’re, your head’s thinking at a hundred miles an hour and you just spit it out. So I mean, really, really, really good tips. Uh, for that. Let’s dive into, I guess what you do. I mean, so you’re going, you’re, who do you predominantly work with the going into corporations and businesses. Are you working with individuals or small groups? How does it look generally look when, when you’re doing things on a day to day basis.


Cynthia Zhai: So I work with both individuals and also corporate. So in the videos they are clients based all over the world and uh, when they are based in where I live in Singapore, that they will come to my office dual face to face. But if there are based in other countries, we do it online. So that’s on one to one. And though, so there, uh, I do run group programs. There are also people from all over the world. Uh, I also speak in corporations, uh, for their, for their conferences and also doing 20 workshops.


Victor Ahipene: Yup. Then you can correct me if you can. The good thing when you got that ability to, and I think it’s something that I try and promote people. Yeah. If you’re a keynote presenter, try and have a product or service off the back of, it doesn’t have to be a group coaching, but hey, I can hopefully your organization has got great impact from me delivering at your conference. So see your group. Uh, yeah, we’ll just be beneficial for your c level executives for me to come and run a training program or the sales team who are up there speaking a lot to, to be able to do that. And then, oh hey would your see oh like to work in a more one on one space where we can work on their keynote prison presentations or their pictures or whatever it may be. And it’s, it’s, it’s a good kind of full circle ability to be able to go.


I can come and speak at a generalized level two lots. I can come and tailor something to, to that level or I can work one on one. Um, from there. So any if four people looking, so I mean I know there’s a lot of aspiring speakers and I’m sure some of them will seek you out for the, for the vocal side of things, but with regards to kind of your aspiring speaker looking to get either their first, uh, I’m not sure where you started in it, if it was the keynote presentations or getting into these corporate environments and training, have you got any tips for them to be able to get there? Their first training event or their first keynote presentation that’s helped you get into companies or helps you to, to start that conversation?


Cynthia Zhai: Yeah, and so I think I have two tips. One is that, um, for aspiring speakers start from, they probably have heard this a lot. This is really how it works and how it worked for me as well, which has to start to give sole cod a free speeches to associations to different groups as many as possible. So that will be the first one. And that’s how I got my engagements between engagements, speaking grid engagements, because people saw me speaking in their group in their association is that old isn’t very good. I want you to do it for my, for my company. So that’s how he started. And then the second one is that, um, set up their profile online because now people are searching online all the time. So put out their profile, their website, their social media profiles, and then that’ll help them to start it to get noticed.


Victor Ahipene: It’s a couple of really good points. Particularly it’s taken one I had, it’s not something I’d necessarily have thought of, but yeah, it’s good. Get yourself out there because you know, like you say so called free, but it’s, yeah, it’s, it’s a free chance to get in front of, you know, 20, 50 a hundred of your target market and if you produce and deliver high quality, it doesn’t have to be densely packed full of information, but just something that’s high quality that they can implement or action or they can see how it can be beneficial to the a team. You know, you’ll do a logical answer because you’re up on stage in front of them as the authority or the I. So I think those are two. Awesome.


Cynthia Zhai: Yeah. And also it is, it is not free speech because I remember, you know, one of my earliest disability as I gave was to a 100 people group and in that 100 people, not only I got training engagements, but also I got a one to one coaching clients years, years after I have given that speech. There are still, people came in and coming to me, they said, oh, the reason I, I, I remember you is because to give the speech. I said, well, it was many years ago. You’ll never know. Yeah,


Victor Ahipene: Yeah. It’s the gift that keeps on paying and amen. Yeah, it’s, it’s a lot easier to live rich off somebody else’s audience that they already trust then, you know, and I’m not saying it’s hard the other way, but it’s easier than, hey, I don’t know who you are. You’re promoting an event. It’s a free event or it’s a cheap event. And then, yeah, you’ve got to get people bums on seats and there’s so many more logistics to to do that. Whereas you know, someone introduces you who they trust and they go, okay, this person must be good. All right. That’s given me value as well. Okay. Yeah, and again, it’s that long game. It’s that you don’t necessarily remember. Yeah, yeah. You Go, oh maybe one day I’ll need voice coaching and then their business hits a point where they go, I’m doing a lot more speaking engagements now I need to improve my voice.


Who was that person that I saw is the only person that I’ve ever seen about voice coaching. I didn’t realize it was a problem until you brought it up and showed that it’s somewhere that I could improve. And then you know, again, like you say, oh, that was years ago, that that years ago was enough that you’re the only option if they ever need it. So very, very powerful tips. Well, I think there’s a brilliant place to finish because I think a lot of people will be able to, aspiring speakers are going to be able to get something out of this. And I think all of us, Irregardless of where we are, I know Tony Robbins, he’s someone that I follow and he had to get extensive vocal training because he was the shelter. Yeah, yeah. Or 12 hour days, 20 times a year that they said he was going to not be able to be heard because his vocal chords were so smashed. It wasn’t till he got voice training and yeah, he’s probably the person who impacts the most people in the world every year. So I mean, if it’s good enough for him, it’s definitely good enough for all of us. So thank you so much for that. If people want to find out more about you, about what your trainings and your, your, um, your workshops and things like that, where can they go and what can they do?


Cynthia Zhai: So I would recommend to resources for them. One is that they can, uh, go to my website where they will find tons of free resources to get them started. Um, the other one is my YouTube channel, so I have more than 20,000 plus subscribers and I’m uploading a sharing videos. Uh, quite often they are now, I think it’s about over 130 videos there for them too. It started to get know, get some knowledge, some tips.


Victor Ahipene: Awesome. We’ll link all of that a and if you jump over there, you’ve got everything there were talks about all of those links. Plus you can grab a free copy of my book if you cover the shipping. I’ll cover the book and I’ll get that out to you. But yeah, look, it’s been an absolute pleasure. I’ve learned a lot myself. I know that many of the listeners will no doubt learned a lot, and I hope that they are take you up and find your, your services to take their voice on another level.


Cynthia Zhai: Thank you.