Leadership is not only about vision. It is also about persuading others to share that vision, and inspiring them to take action.
To help the 2012-13 Sauvé Scholars master the art of persuasive speaking, we partnered with two expert speaker trainers: Steven Lecky and Elissa Bernstein. They designed a training program especially tailored to the needs of Sauvé Scholars and to the pace and public speaking requirements of the Program.
The Vox Method
Steve Lecky is creator of the Vox Method, a groundbreaking technique designed to bring the energy, passion, nuance and variety of real human expression to a prepared speech. Vox Method is distilled from over 30 years of work Steven has done as a voice and acting teacher, classical singer and theatre director.
Vox speaking coach Elissa Bernstein trained under Steven Lecky for 17 years, and has a background in law, theatre, singing and dance.
Through group workshops and intensive one-on-one coaching sessions, Elissa and Steven aimed to transform Scholars from “mediocre speakers to good speakers, and from good speakers to great ones.”
Together, Steven and Elissa spent over 100 hours coaching the Scholars from August to May.
“The fact is that most speakers are uninspiring,” Elissa explains. “Their speeches are too long, overly wordy and technical. Speakers are often reading from notes or PowerPoint slides. Or they speak off the cuff without sufficient skill and preparation. There is so much room for improvement!”
The Vox Method aims to train people out of these bad habits and into new ones. It teaches speakers to bring all the “energy, passion, nuance and variety of real human expression” to a prepared speech.
Persuasion is Emotional
Much of the Vox Method is built around this simple truth: persuasion is emotional, not cerebral. “If you want to excite an audience,” Elissa explains, “your speech cannot sound like a research paper being read aloud. Although a speech must have depth and be well supported, it must above all, speak from the heart and move the audience.”
Elissa and Steven worked with Scholars to transform their lengthy, wordy sentences into texts that were more alive and more personal. Helping Scholars to re-write their speeches “with heart” was a critical first step on the journey towards authentic public speaking.
Speaking is Physical
A second truth underlying the Vox Method is that speaking in public is a physical act. Human expression, Steven explained during the first workshop, happens through the body. An audience receives much of its information from a speaker’s non-verbal cues. When speakers are unaware of the physical signals they are sending, they often seem disconnected from their own words, unconvinced by their message, and unconvincing.
Through the Vox Method, the Sauvé Scholars cultivated an awareness of what their bodies were communicating and retrained their bodies to become instruments of engaged delivery. The Vox Method exercises, often requiring great concentration and repetition, are all designed to help speakers embody their speeches. Prepared speech should seem like speech in real life, where everything we say comes from a real thought that engages the whole body.
Of course, norms and expectations around public speaking differ around the world. “It was interesting and challenging working with so many cultures,” recalls Elissa. “Some Scholars were not initially comfortable taking centre-stage. We explored our perceptions of what constitutes strength and presence versus arrogance and bragging.”
In these discussions, Elissa encouraged participants to find their authentic voice. “The Vox Method,” she explains, “is not about trying to be someone you’re not. It’s about bringing out the richness of who you are, in a heightened way.”
Practice is Essential
And Elissa’s final piece of wisdom for making an embodied, emotionally resonant speech? Practice, practice, practice! “It is no easy feat to recreate the energy and passion of spontaneous speech. Those who made the training a priority showed exciting progress. It reinforced my belief that everybody has the potential to be a great speaker, if they’re willing to put in the work.”
After just a few exercises with Elissa and Steven, the Vox Method was already transforming delivery: We noticed that Scholars’ voices began to change. Elissa explains that as we get balanced and organized in our delivery, the voice is freed of tension and takes on more power, more tone, more personality.
The impact of the Vox workshops on Sauvé Scholars was unmistakable. All Scholars told us that their experience with the Vox Method made them more skilled at speaking in public over the course of the year.
Sauvé Scholar Micah Grzywnowicz said of the experience: “My public speaking life can be seen as ‘pre-Elissa’ and ‘post-Elissa’! I love speaking and being in front of people and Elissa showed me how to bring it to the next level. She was patient, funny and a great listener. She made me feel safe and comfortable when practicing speaking, which is not the easiest thing to do! Elissa pushed me to speak and move my body in a way I did not know I am capable of. They say that practice makes perfect – I would say:’ Elissa and practice make one’s speaking perfect!’ I really appreciated working with Elissa! Not only did I learn a lot about how to speak, but also I learned a lot about myself and how I can express myself. Thank you so much Elissa for this gift!”
Reflecting back on the Sauvé-Vox collaboration, Elissa exclaimed “I adored working with the Scholars! They have great minds and great spirits. They were very open to the training and appreciated the help. This was the ultimate teaching experience- a real collaboration.”
We look forward to collaborating with the Vox team going forward. We are deeply grateful to Steven Lecky and Elissa Bernstein for sharing their expertise, passion and time with us this year.
To learn more about the Vox Method, or to try it for yourself, please contact Elissa Bernstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.