Years before I started practicing my business pitch as a CEO, I was practicing how to do two other things in front of people: speak publicly and sing. Exercises in public speaking began as early as grade school, and served me well during science fairs and group presentations. However short-lived my science career turned out to be (another story for another time), the science fairs on the county and state levels bolstered not only a comfort, but an enjoyment in speaking before a crowd.
As I entered high school, though, I began to do something else just as seriously: I began to sing. I began to practice singing as often as I could, and not just in the shower. I was practicing with headphones, a microphone and amplifier setup so I could know exactly how my voice sounded coming through a loudspeaker (of sorts). I was doing the band thing with my friends, and we were going to conquer the world. That meant I needed to be able not only get up in front of a crowd and make some sort of sound come out of my mouth, but I needed to be able to control it.
I needed to be able to control every aspect of my voice: the tone, the inflections, the power, the breath, the range, and the melody. That’s what it took to be a lead-singer and/or rockstar, and that’s what I was going to do. I couldn’t have known it at the time, but all that practice for my music career—understanding the qualities of my voice and what it was (and wasn’t) capable of—is proving invaluable well beyond my intended career as a musician.
I’ve blown my voice out numerous times in the past exploring new ranges, techniques, pronunciations, and vocal styles. I’ve had days where people inquired about my “laryngitis.” But it’s ok, because a day later I’m all ready to go again, and each time I nail a new song and find the delivery that works for my voice, I get to know my own talkbox a little better. With that discovery comes a deeper understanding of how my voice sounds to other; its melody, its tone, its inflections. (It also has helped with my breathing, which is something I believe every public speaker should continually work on).
But the most important thing I’ve grown to have a deeper understanding of is the power and range that my voice can have. That’s something that transcends the rock stage and applies directly to my trajectory now as a CEO. Speaking comes with the territory, and having a notion of my range and potential power is like having an ace up my sleeve. I know how far I can push myself before my voice disappears under too much strain, and I what I can now do to avoid that blowout.
I practice singing any number of things as I continue to test my voice and its boundaries: post-grunge, alternative rock, ska punk, pop, metal, classic rock, rap, reggae, male vocals, female vocals—anything that piques my taste and can give me more of an edge. In retrospect, practicing singing has been as much of an advantage as practicing my business pitch. I would suggest to anyone who spends time speaking in public to start singing—really singing: really try to nail that melody, try to match and control your breathing, find the inflections that work best for you, and find your own power.
Besides, we all wanted to be rockstars at some point, right? Maybe there’s still time for some of us—maybe all of us.