Twelve incredible individuals make up the coaching team at London Speech Workshop, each one handpicked for their expertise, warmth and that extra 'touch of magic' that embodies our values. Julia is one of our Principal Coaches, and we loved interviewing her for this blog. From running marathons through to neuro-linguistic programming, Julia goes at life with full commitment and gusto. Her powerful attitude is a gift to her clients, as she supports them to overcome any roadblocks getting in the way of their work and personal lives. Read on to find out what propelled Julia during the marathon (twice!) and what that has to do with communication.
Hi Julia, can you tell me a bit about yourself?
So, I've been a communication coach since 2004. This was on the back of me receiving my Licentiate teaching diploma in Speech & Drama from the Guildhall. I then started to work in everything to do with voice, communication and speech. Outside of coaching, I use my communication skills in my personal life too. I wanted to run a marathon before I hit 40. So, 10 days before my 40th birthday, I ran the Edinburgh marathon. And it was one of the most challenging and hardest things I have ever done in my life! What's all this got to do with communication, I hear you say? Well, a couple of years later I decided that I was going to do it all over again - in London this time. And I had to really work. Not only on my physical fitness but my mental fitness too. This came in the guise of positive internal dialogue, which is one of the skills that I teach. I was telling myself "I can do this" and "I'm going to do this" as opposed to "I'm not running very fast" or "This is really hard". The moment I was able to do that, it changed my training completely, and it didn't feel as overwhelming. It also helped me to break it down into bite-sized chunks. This is something I often talk about in my sessions with clients - from a vocal point of view, breaking it down into chunks of thought, in order to then land our message. It's the same with our internal dialogue - we can break it down into positive manageable thoughts. So, fast-forward to the 3rd of October this year and I ran the London marathon, shaving 20 minutes off my Edinburgh time. The power of positive thinking!
What communication challenges do your clients often come to you with?
Often it's about their level of confidence, and a fear of public speaking - having to speak in front of people, presenting... it can be terrifying! I work with a lot of senior leaders and CEOs of companies where they've worked their way up and suddenly find themselves in the spotlight. I had a particular client who, every time we looked at doing any exercise or practised presenting, he'd finish and say things like "Oh that was rubbish" or "Oh gosh I'm not any good at this". So we just took a moment to think about the impact of his internal dialogue. When you're saying to yourself "I'm rubbish, I'm not good at this", guess what? That's exactly what will happen! Our thoughts become our reality. So by just changing our internal dialogue to something much more positive, we have a direct impact on how we are able to improve, because we're being kinder to ourselves. Consciously or unconsciously we're always talking to ourselves. ALL the time. It's the loudest and most constant voice we have. So we need to make that internal chatter kinder and more helpful, rather than self-sabotaging. We live in a world of negative bias and it's about being able to reframe that to a more positive place.
Do all your clients lack confidence?
No, not at all. Sometimes I work with clients who get very frustrated because they go into a meeting and come up against resistance from other members of their team and feel like nobody ever listens to them. So I ask the question, "Who is it that you're communicating for?" . Often they look a little bit bamboozled by this question, but it's a really important one! We get so caught up in our own way of communication, our role model of the world and our own preferences, that sometimes we don't land our message because we're not thinking about how we can flex in our communication. This links back to the whole idea about being an effective communicator - if a communicator is able to do that work for their listener, they're creating that vocal landscape. In order for us to do that really effectively, we have to remember that we are always coming at it from a position of communicating for the other person: how can I deliver this message in a way that's really going to land for them?
What tools do you give your clients during their communication course?
There are two tools that I find have the most 'lightbulb moments' with the people I coach.
The first is how to help somebody avoid and eradicate fillers - that's what we call the ummms, ahhs, likes and sort ofs... That's present with so many of my clients, and being able to give them tools to help them move away from fillers, is fabulous. It's so impactful and so simple to implement. It's all about the practice - the client has to go away and practise these tools, but they're really simple and effective.
The other tool that I love we call Connection Spaces - this is about helping clients understand how all of the nonverbal elements to their communication, as well as their vocal expression and intention, can have real impact in how they choose to connect with their listener. Intention and connection are absolutely key in any form of communication.
Do you have an example of a 'lightbulb moment' you've had with one of your clients?
One of the clients I had was a senior leader for a global organisation. She was working in a very male-dominated environment and struggled with feeling like she was being heard in meetings. As a senior leader, this was obviously a really big problem for her so it became a bit of a challenge. Each time I got her to present to me or use the idea of pitching, or even just in conversation, her voice would lower and she would lose any sense of volume or power behind it. She actually verbalised that she felt that this was because it felt like she was swallowing her own voice, and that it was in her throat. So we worked on the technique of visualisation. I got her to visualise that her voice was in the front part of her mouth, and that she was able to give it permission to come forward so that when she opened her mouth, she was then able to release her sounds. This made a huge difference in moving where her voice currently was to where she wanted it to be, and that was a huge lightbulb moment for her. It changed so many elements of her interactions with people.
How do you help people have more confidence in public speaking and communication?
In essence, it comes to having the skills and the knowledge, then practise practise practise. It's like any new skill - you don't go and just run a marathon, you have to learn the right tools and techniques and then practise them. It's the same with public speaking - it really is a skill. Helping build clients' confidence, giving them that toolkit and getting them to understand the importance of practising it is essential. It's also a bit around the mindset piece - thinking about positive language, encouraging them to own their own space, find their own power and authenticity. It comes down to knowledge. When we're armed with knowledge, we can feel comfortable in the fact that we know what we're doing. A lot of the fear in public speaking and any form of communication comes from feeling like you don't know what you're doing. It starts with knowledge and holding their hand through that process, to build their confidence.
Can great communication really be taught?
Yes! It absolutely can be taught. How do we learn to do anything? We model others, we see how others do things. It's like any skill - it can be taught if we're willing to put in the time, energy and practice. So yes, I 100% believe that great communication can be taught.
I think the key thing about all of this is guiding and encouraging someone to find their style - their own sense of authenticity. It's how to help someone deliver their message with gravitas. For me, a good coach is someone who's able to build someone's confidence and create a really safe space. This is absolutely key so that the client can go on that journey knowing that they are in a safe space and that they can really trust you implicitly as their coach. They can try new things, remain open, curious and happy to have a go, even if it's that feeling of stepping out of their comfort zone. The only way they'll do that is if a good coach creates that safe environment for them.
And finally, what's your favourite thing about being a speech coach at London Speech Workshop?
My favourite thing about being a coach at LSW is the diversity of clients and the fact that I get to work with clients from all over the world - but also from all walks of life. Every one of them turns up to have coaching for a different reason. I love getting to know each of those clients.
Julia's role as a communication coach is mainly focussed on Effective Communication. She has worked globally as a communication coach for 14+ years, coaching everyone from managers, leaders and C-Suite professionals to students and recent graduates. She helps with increased gravitas and authority, connection and rapport, leadership presence, charisma and more.
Julia runs and creates bespoke courses for clients all over the world, offering them 5, 10 or 15 session packages. If you'd like to experience the brilliance of Julia for yourself, book a 1-hour Taster Session with her.