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Faculty Voice Group

A Weekly Seminar in Effective Communicating, Fall 2015
Facilitated by James Goodwin Rice
Senior Lecturer, Department of Theater
Senior Lecturer, Tuck School of Business

For nearly 15 years the Faculty Voice Group has been helping faculty, new and old, to improve their speaking voice and presence in the classroom: for lecturing and for leading discussions effectively. Relaxation, vocal expressiveness and strength, authentic connection to the audience, confidence, and finding the enjoyment in speaking are just some of the areas explored. Each of the eight 90 minute weekly sessions will seek to identify and address particular problems encountered by people who depend on the vocal instrument in their daily work and in personal and social interactions.

Sessions are very informal and take place in a safe, supportive learning environment. Strategies for relaxation, empowerment through breath and energizing begin each session. Each week, participants will have an opportunity to "use" their voices in a variety of ways and undertake suggested assignments. These sessions and assignments are rewarding and fun!

The broad goal of this group is to identify areas that inhibit the fullest expression of whatever content the speaker is attempting to communicate, in a variety of situations and conditions. Often simple, overlooked (yet easily corrected) habits diminish the message of the speaker and his or her overall effectiveness as an instructor. For instance, an almost universal (and human) factor in ineffective speaking is fear – the uncertainty and insecurity that can affect the individual who stands before a group and in some ways reveals him or herself. This group attempts to address these fears and examine how they affect the body, mind, and voice – as well as offer techniques to overcome these challenges!

Goals and Objectives

-  Achieve physical and mental relaxation, which promotes freedom of breath, a positive state of mind, and an absence of tension in the body
-  Identify areas that inhibit a fullness of expression of whatever content the speaker is attempting to communicate in a variety of situations and conditions
-  Address those fears, uncertainties, or insecurities that can affect the body, mind, and voice in speaking situations and introduce strategies for overcoming identified problems
-  Practice a progression of exercises to free and strengthen the voice
-  Utilize the laboratory aspect of the class to build a reinforcing group conversation in an exchange of issues and ideas relating to speaking, professionally or otherwise
-  Discover an increased empowerment and joy in speaking

What People are Saying

"I really enjoyed the group, and two big, important things I came away from it with were these:

1) Breathing – You wouldn't think that people who have been breathing for 40 years need to be re-trained how to do it effectively but, well, we do! Understanding that from breathing comes all good speaking ability has been key for me.

2) Connecting With the Audience – I teach an introductory class that has grown in popularity from 48, to 77, to now more than 280 students. In a room this large, it's really important to be able to connect, to read the audience, and respond; otherwise, we become wooden lecturers. I feel like part of my work is the group helped me break down the wall between speaker and audience, and I credit this with a comment I received last week from one of my 280 students: 'It's a big class, but it feels like a much smaller class, the way you run it.' Boy, if I'd planned that I couldn't have done better, as this is exactly what I am aiming for."
-- Robert Hawley, Department of Earth Sciences

"James Rice's faculty voice class goes far beyond the usual 'tips' for 'public speaking.' James taught me to see lectures as a generous act, and a cooperative endeavor – the leading of a shared experience rather than a transmission to a crowd that simply receives my words. He taught me not to just talk to people, but to launch my words in an arc that reaches even those students leaning against the back wall, and he taught me to watch with interest how those words land. Every time I give a lecture or a talk, I think about the techniques that James taught me, and have become a much better speaker, and teacher, as a result."
-- Jennifer Lind, Department of Government

"This class opened a door for me. The exercises and work we did allowed me to begin a systematic analysis of my voice in its various aspects (public vs. private, professional vs. personal) and better see my own strengths and weaknesses. As we progressed, I felt a stronger and stronger commitment to the class as it became clear to me that the goal of 'free voice' is valuable in almost every aspect of a person's life.

The stretching and breathing exercises are absolutely great – they really help me to attain a state of mind that is conducive to communication. I feel much more in tune with my body and voice. Our work also helped me to realize that, over the past few years, I have pulled away from my audience. I feel that I have been able to make the first steps towards reconnecting with my audience in a natural way. On an extremely personal level, this is one of the best... outcomes of the voice class – it allows me to face directly the fear associated with the risk of exposing myself to others... If a colleague were truly interested in improving his or her presentation and communication skills, I would, without hesitation, recommend this course."
-- Scott Pauls, Department of Mathematics

"Very positive experience. The two things I take from this class are, first, the very practical breathing and stretching techniques for relaxation, and second, an awareness of the 'blocks' that are preventing me from connecting with audiences the way I'd like to. I am fully convinced that the techniques that I learned greatly improved my abilities. Perhaps more importantly, the work on addressing deeper blocks is already beginning to pay off."
-- Daryl Press, Department of Government

Last Updated: 10/1/15