Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Your Voice Matters: Overcoming Vocal Difficulties with Author and Speech Pathologist Elizabeth Hunt

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Your Voice Matters by Elizabeth Hunt

By Karen Shenfeld

“If you happen to be as charismatic as the late Julia Child, or you are an expert on a subject as compelling as the sex therapist Dr. Ruth's, then you likely won’t have to read my book,” says Elizabeth Hunt. “If, however, you are a capable woman, wanting to succeed in business (or acting, say, or teaching), but you also happen to possess a less than pleasing voice or communication style, my book will certainly help.”

The author of the newly published, Your Voice Matters, A practical guide for women who want to improve their communication skills, speaks from experience. Hunt has a master’s degree in Speech Pathology and is also the founding president of Hunt Communication. For the past twenty years, she has become renowned as a presentation trainer, providing guidance to senior executives across Canada, the U.S., Europe and Asia.

“Several years ago, I began researching a workshop I was going to deliver at the University of Toronto’s prestigious Rotman School of Management. I went to a popular website to find samples of successful women making presentations. Having looked at more than one hundred samples, I was surprised at what I’d found: In almost every single instance, the female speaker did something within the first two minutes of her presentation to diminish, or even undermine, her message.” Some presenters began with an apology; others failed to make eye contact with their audience; still others spoke too softly or too slowly or too quickly.

“Women’s vocal problems often relate to pitch, intonation and breath control,” Hunt says. “Unfortunately, female speakers don’t have the same lung capacity as their male counterparts, and they often don’t know how to project a strong, resonant voice. A woman will typically try to make up for a lack of projection by raising the pitch of her voice, producing a forced or shrill tone.”

Your Voice Matters focuses on key vocal difficulties that women most often exhibit when speaking in public, and how to overcome them through awareness and exercises. The first half of the book presents engaging stories of women with communication difficulties drawn from the corporate world. These archetypal women include “The Drill Sergeant” and “The Whiner,” as well as those with the “Lauren Bacall Syndrome” or “The Schoolteacher Syndrome.” The second half of the book outlines simple, effective vocal exercises in step-by-step detail. Though Hunt wrote the book for women, the exercises she describes will work equally well for men. They will also work well for busy poets, male and female, doing lots of readings during book launch season! Besides targeting the voice, the book also addresses shyness and public speaking anxiety.

Hunt laughs that "it took a major recession" to get her to actually sit down and write a book. But she has been absolutely delighted with its reception: Just this week, Your Voice Matters was ranked Number One on The Globe and Mail's list of the top ten bestselling business books in Canada. "I was never named Prom Queen, nor was I ever First Pick for a sport's team. I've been happy to be able to tell my dad the good news about the book."

Karen Shenfeld is a poet, freelance journalist and filmmaker living in Toronto. She has published three books of poetry with Guernica Editions: The Law of Return (which won the Canadian Jewish Book Award for poetry in 2001), The Fertile Crescent and, most recently, My Father’s Hands Spoke in Yiddish. Her freelance articles have appeared in major Canadian magazines, including Saturday Night, Toronto Life, Flare and The Idler. Her personal documentary, Il Giardino, The Gardens of Little Italy, was screened at the 2007 Planet in Focus International Film and Video Festival.

Karen was Open Book: Toronto's December 2009 Writer in Residence.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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