Brad Post, Create the Movement, host
Rena Cook, My Vocal Authority, guest
Brad Post, Create the Movement, host: Welcome back to Create the Movement podcast. This is Brad Post. I’m speaking with Rena Cook this week from My Vocal Authority. She and I got connected a few months back. She’s doing some amazing things. Rena, how are you doing today?
Rena Cook and My Vocal Authority
Rena Cook, My Vocal Authority, guest: I am doing great, Brad. And thank you so much for being willing to talk to me today.
BP: Absolutely. So, your website it’s myvocalauthority.com. Last time we met, you just have an amazing story that I’d like for our listeners to hear. Can you tell us a little bit? It’s a vocal kind of speaking, consulting.
RC: Yeah, yeah. It’s corporate voice and speech coaching. I work with individuals and groups who want, or need, to use their speaking voice in more compelling and dynamic ways. I work with people who are terrified of public speaking. People who are very accomplished speakers who want to up their game in some way.
I came to this in a strange route. I started my life as a singer/actor/dancer. As a little kid in the neighborhood who made pot-holders and sold them door-to-door for two for a quarter to save money to buy my first tap shoes – when I was like five years old. I grew up thinking that I wanted to perform.
And then I discovered teaching and directing when I was in college. Oh, my gosh. It was so much more gratifying and deeply satisfying than performing. You know, when you’re performing it’s all about me. And, by the way, what did you think of my performance? But when I taught and directed it was all about ‘us’ and what we could do together. So, the majority of my adult life I’ve been teaching and directing actors.
About 15 years ago I got really obsessed with voice. As I looked at actors I realized that nothing that I was doing would help them, until I could help their voice work. So, that’s when, as you mentioned, I quit my job and went to London to study for a year at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and became a voice and speech trainer. I came back to OU and taught for another 15 years in the School of Drama there, and retired just two years ago because I wanted to develop this business.
I’m thinking that business professionals oftentimes are held back by their voice quality, or voice usage, or volume, or any number of problems. And their careers are held back and they don’t even know what the problem is. My business works with anyone in the professions that needs a better voice, a different voice, a more commanding voice.
So, that’s kind of a long story to answer you question. But that’s my story.
BP: That’s great. You were able to retire and then, also start a company where your passion lies, basically. Right?
RC: Yeah. I’m really fortunate that I had worked enough years in the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement that I could retire and have that safety net of retirement money while I am building a business.
BP: You mentioned your training in London, and that’s a pretty big deal. Right?
RC: It was the epitome of my life so far. I was there 12 months. One of my friends observed that I ‘sucked the marrow out’ of that experience. I just took advantage of everything – not only the training – but what the city of London had to offer. I came back a teacher and a human being reborn from that experience.
BP: That’s so awesome. I like what it says on your website: ‘Reclaim your authentic voice, define your presence, develop your confidence, embrace your power.’ That’s really well written.
RC: Thank you.
BP: You’ve also authored some books, and are in the process of doing another. Correct?
RC: A number of years ago I met a woman that I was so intrigued by. She was the smartest woman I had ever met and I wanted to write a book with her. Now, why I wanted to do that I don’t know. I’d never written before. But I approached her and said, “I really would like to a project with you.” And she said in perfect British accent, “I really always wanted to write a little book about breath.” And I said, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Me too!” Of course, not knowing that that was what I wanted to do. And so we co-edited, co-authored, a book about teaching the performance of breath.
And it was through that process that I said, “Oh, wow, I can do this.” I have a really strong passion for working with high school actors. I do thespian conferences and so on. They always ask me, “Do you have a book?” And so I wrote a book called ‘Voice and the Young Actor.’ Which is used now in the US and the UK in high school drama programs.
BP: Wow, that’s exciting. You also have another book in the works. Correct?
RC: Yeah. I’m currently writing a book. The working title is: ‘Empower Your Voice: Women in Business and Politics.’ I see such a need right now. Women are exploding with opinion, with desire to affect change, with outrage, with love. We just have so much to share. And with this new cultural awakening, we need to also have a physical, vocal awakening. “How can I change years of habitual use of voice and my body to release my true sound, my true thoughts, my true power?”
So, that’s what this book is going to be about.
BP: I’ll look forward to it. What would you say is the most exciting thing to you in your business right now?
RC: I think it definitely is empowering women’s voices. I do a course called ‘The Expressive Litigator.’, and I have ‘Taming Performance Anxiety,’ and ‘Nailing Your 60-second Elevator Pitch.’ But the thing that lights me up is the work that I’m doing with women. Not only professionally, but the pro bono work that I do. I’m coaching several women who are running for political office. I do that because I believe in them and what they’re attempting to do, and so I coach them pro bono.
I love working with women in recovery. Women who are healing from trauma, from prison, addiction recovery. Helping women who have been unfortunate. Who have had really difficult times to understand what it feels like to breathe deeply, to be confident, and to speak in a strong and confident way.
The Best Business Advice Received
BP: That’s awesome. I love it. What would you say is the best business advice that you’ve ever been given?
RC: The best advice I’ve been given is: “Focus Rena, focus.” For me, that’s excellent advice because I have a scatter-shot imagination and attention span. I want to follow whatever is shiniest in my world. I need to reign that in and focus on what it is I truly want to accomplish. Where it is I’m going and how systematically am I going to get there?
In the work that I do the best advice that I give to other women is to: “Breathe deeply. Always.” And connecting to deep, central breaths is the master key to everyday success, to overall success, to relationship success, business success, maintaining a connection with the deep central breath.
Favorite Books and Podcasts
BP: Are there any books that you would recommend to our listeners?
RC: I’ve got a whole stack of books on my desk right now. Because, obviously, I’m obsessed with voice. There’s a book called ‘The Well-Spoken Woman’ by Christine Jahnke. When I read the book it was like, “Oh, darn! This is the book I wanted to write.” He’s a professional, national-level voice and presentation coach and deals with a lot of subjects beyond just voice and body. It was very inspiring.
‘The Confidence Code’ by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. I’ve also read several times.
An author outside of my field, my favorite literary fiction author and essayist is Rilla Askew. She’s an Oklahoma author. Has four remarkable novels and just recently published a book of essays. So, whenever anybody says, “What should I be reading right now?” I say, “Anything by Rilla Askew.”
BP: Are there any podcasts that you currently listen to, Rena, that you would recommend to our listeners?
RC: Yeah, there’s actually a couple. A young woman named Elissa Weinzimmer. She has a company called Body Voice Connection. She does podcasts frequently. The last one that I really enjoyed was ‘Sound Like Yourself.’ Which, of course, feeds right into what I’m working on now.
And then I discovered this wonderful site called Meditation Monday. This filmmaker named Lizz Whalen puts out every Monday a short meditation for people who don’t have time to meditate. I love that. I take 10 minutes out of my Monday and do that meditation just because it’s a good discipline to slow yourself down and to focus your mind, focus your breath. It calms your nerves. It brings your blood pressure down. It has all kinds of wonderful health effects and allows me, as I said earlier, not to get to get so distracted by sparkly things.
BP: I downloaded an app called Head Space. It was 10-minute daily meditation.
RC: I’ve heard of Head Space.
BP: I’ve been in the habit of doing that, but you’ve reminded me to get back into that habit.
RC: It’s an easy habit to lose. And, yet it’s so important.
BP: It really is.
RC: I make a little meditation a part of my early morning workout – vocal and physical warm up. I encourage my clients to do a physical and vocal warm up before they go into professional speaking situations. I do it every day as a matter of course. Taking care of body and voice and mental health. Including a little meditation in that caps off that hour that I give myself to try to be healthy.
BP: Rena, thank you so much for being on our podcast today.
RC: My pleasure.
BP: Our listeners can connect with you through your website myvocalauthority.com. Any other ways to connect with you as well?
RC: My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome communication from either the website or from email.
BP: Thank you, Rena.
RC: My pleasure. Thank you, Brad.