A 60 minute vocal session with the coach who trains the world's most powerful voices

Rachel Griffiths, Client Director at RADA Business

I recently had the privilege of spending 60 minutes in a class with Tom Wakeley, singing coach at RADA and tutor at RADA Business. With RADA Business, he helps people across all areas of business to find their voice. At RADA, Tom trains some of the world’s best upcoming actors.

Most acting students spend three years in his classes. We met at RADA Studios, as he took eight business professionals through a vocal session as part of our leadership performance programme, The Leading Role.

The situations are different, but the goal is the same

Consistently, a vast majority of participants begin the course believing they can’t sing. Consistently, Tom helps them to find their voice. He does so with many audiences, from unleashing the sound of 500 (sceptical) management consultants in a football stadium, to unlocking the vocal power of some of the most senior leaders in our country.

Confessions from delegates

These are just some of the things the delegates say when they're told that they would be singing a solo in 30-minutes time, with Tom's support.

  • "The teacher in the school choir asked me to mime."
  • "I was told by my primary school teacher that I couldn’t sing, and I haven’t sung since."

Tom's response

"Yes you can," says Tom. He continues to talk about how, if we can speak, we can sing. How, when we are introduced to a new puppy, we are able to express a warm, low-pitched ahhh sound? How, if we find our bike is being stolen, we can raise our pitch and our volume to alert others? Singing and voice is intrinsic in our society, from football chants to nursery rhymes. It’s a fundamental tool of human communication.

"Singing is probably the perfect form of human communication in that it carries intellectual information (the words) along with emotional sound (your voice). When we use all the subtleties of sound as we’re speaking, we really connect to our words. Singing is a great way to exercise and explore that means of communication."

We all have the ability to be experts at breathing, but if we are nervous and tense we can interfere with that natural process and lose the support for our sound
Tom Wakeley

Tom on why singing is important

You don’t sing in the office, so why is it so necessary to understand all this?

It’s because authoritative voices come from a connection to their resonance. This is as true for leaders as it is for singers and actors. We can all tell if we don’t believe what someone is saying, although we don’t always know why.

Voice is the most powerful channel through which we can all express emotion. Our voice is psychosomatic; it reveals our emotions. That is because our voice is rooted in our persona – a word that, in the original Latin, translates as ‘through sound.’

Three steps to finding your voice

Tom says there are three key steps to be aware of when developing a powerful leadership voice:

  1. "Firstly, remember that the root of all sound is in the breath. We all have ability to be experts at breathing, but if we are nervous and tense we can interfere with that natural process and lose the support for our sound."
  2. "To counteract this, imagine your breath is low in your body, somewhere around your physical centre. Imagine your sound begins there, too. This will help open your lower, most commanding resonances."
  3. "We can easily explore the variations in pitch that we are capable of, simply by sustaining and sliding our sound over a wider range than we would normally use. These pitch variations can be put to great use in telling our story to our audience."

The power of voice

After 60 minutes under Tom’s skilful tuition, every leader in our group not only found their voice but also showcased their unique vocal presence. It took each of us as individuals – and as a collective – by surprise, and felt immensely powerful. We each almost became a richer version of ourselves. A true privilege that permanently changes your perspective and appreciation for the wonder of the human voice.

Develop your leadership

Make 2020 a year to sing about – our leadership programmes help leaders of all levels work on vocal presence, build gravitas and use their voice to instil trust.

Find out more here