As editor of The Celebrant magazine, fledgling and experienced celebrants from around the world often ask me about how they can improve their vocal and presentation skills. It may be that they did a training course which didn’t include these modules or that they’ve fallen into bad habits and wish to improve their current skill level.
You can have the best written script in the world, but if it isn’t lifted off the page and delivered with flair, grace and authenticity it will fall flat.
Officiating a ceremony is the ‘icing’ on the cake after a lot of baking! We’ve put in time, energy and creativity to reach this point. What a shame to undo all that work with a poor or mediocre delivery.
Wearing my other hat, as co-tutor and co-founder at Heart-led Ceremonies Celebrant Training, I place great value and care on the use of voice and presentation skills and qualities in celebrancy work. As a result, our modules include one-to-one coaching with industry expert, Paul Robinson. There are at least five hours of vocal coaching, and more sessions are available to each person should they wish to pursue this element of their celebrancy.
Paul is The Celebrant magazine‘s voice and presentation columnist.
Paul is also available to work with celebrants who’ve trained elsewhere, regardless of if they’re highly experienced or just starting out as celebrants.
If you’re considering improving your vocal and presentation skills, here’s some feedback from those who have worked one-to-one with Paul.
Paul is a superb voice and presentation coach. I can still hear his voice in my head with his brilliant advice and techniques that he taught me with such humour and care. The breakthrough for me was recording myself reminiscing about a memory and then listening back to how I sounded and the rhythm and pace of my speaking voice, and that is what I aim to achieve whenever I am officiating either in the eulogy with a funeral or the love story at a wedding. Paul has such a calm and caring manner, and his training has really paid off – because families often comment on my voice and mention how calming and soothing my presentation is, which is all down to Paul. And he taught me how to stop swaying from side to side when I’m speaking too! I would highly recommend Paul, he is simply amazing!
Petra Rigby, Heart-led Celebrant, Blossom Tree Ceremonies
Paul Robinson is an alchemist. The definition of an alchemist is: a person who transforms or creates something through a seemingly magical process.
When someone has the ability to help you to weave your written words into something that touches others, then that is alchemy. You may have written a beautifully crafted piece or you might have written something you feel is quite average. You read it to Paul and he helps you to transport it into a living memory…there is a chemical reaction that happens when he highlights to you that those words need to come from your heart space as if they were new thoughts to you. He teaches you how to pause, as if there is a new idea, a new memory and bring it to life. That sense of making your words come “alive” can bring depth, range and meaning to others in the way you present them. You can have the most amazing speaking voice….but if you have not had the training that Paul offers…..or have had speech training…there is no way that you can deliver them in a way that makes your words have “life”. He helps you to add colour, strength and majesty to your words. Having had the hardest task of conducting a funeral for a dear, dear friend, I can truthfully say that without Paul’s help and guidance, I would not have been able to do so and honour her with anchorage and trust that my voice would be heard, and my delivery would be authentic. As I said….Paul is an alchemist. I thank my lucky stars for his training.
I was thrilled with my voice coaching with Paul. I had a very confused accent, a mixture of Scottish, English and a posh telephone voice used only at work! When we started to practise scripts, my breathing and inflection had a lot to be desired… Thankfully, Paul, with his vast experience helped me craft all my accents into one.
He shared how to improve my word inflection, and helped me understand my breathing. Indeed, now when I hear my voice, rather than cringe, I’m amazed that it sounds quite warm and engaging.
Paul helped me with writing in such a way I now adapt my scripts so that I communicate with everyone individually as I deliver my scripts. I’m still working on my eye-contact, this comes as part of the training and has been quite a challenge for me. Like all life skills, practice, practice and then some more practice can only help soften and sharpen these amazing skills.
I’m still a work in progress, but delighted with how my voice coaching has given me a new found confidence for public speaking.
Jacquie Wilson, The Turquoise Celebrant
I found the vocal training aspect of my Heart Led Ceremonies Celebrant Training far more difficult than I anticipated. As an experienced and confident public speaker, I was challenged and guided to make my delivery more authentic and sensitive. Paul was always supportive and encouraging. He offered me constructive advice and modelled his expectations to me. His methods, including breathing technique, where to focus, what experiences to draw on etc, are something that I will refer to frequently as I go on to deliver a range of ceremonies.
Paul’s voice training sessions were always something I looked forward to attending. His wealth of experience around how to listen to, analyse, and work on improving the sound of my voice are second to none.
I learned how best to breathe and how to use feelings to improve the delivery of my ceremonies. His use of humour and anecdotes along with the pace of the sessions all enabled me to understand and absorb fully the learning points. At the beginning of my training, I felt nervous and self-conscious about performing but his constructive analysis of my voice and kind manner have made me more relaxed about speaking in front of a group of strangers.
Paul has built confidence in me which I am so grateful for, I highly recommend training with him.
The voice training provided by Paul has been an interesting and thought-provoking process. My initial contact with Paul was very positive. With efficiency, Paul set the standard straight away. Emails responded to quickly and acknowledgement of course fees being received set the bedrock of trust.
The new knowledge I received: – how the voice works; awareness; warming up; watching and listening to the professionals; lifting the words from the page and managing the nerves. An invaluable experience!
I keep in touch with Paul in monthly celebrant Zoom meetings and he continues to give top tips and model techniques using his own voice.
Before I started on my Celebrant journey, I hadn’t actually given much thought to the sound of my voice, but during my training, I discovered just how important a tool the voice is – and Paul helped me to hone that tool, to improve my performance AND my confidence.
Paul’s knowledge and professionalism is excellent- he patiently guides, giving feedback at every stage, and he does so with a sense of fun. We laughed a lot, which helped to settle my nerves; but we also explored the effects that emotion has on the voice.
As a Funeral Celebrant, there are many times when tears and emotion can affect my voice. Paul gently taught me how to harness that emotion to actually improve my performance, rather than detracting from it.
Paul is generous with his time, and he is always willing to help with ongoing development- I had some problems with breathing last year, and Paul guided me through the exercises which helped me to overcome the issue.
Paul is quite simply a great coach, and a thoroughly nice guy!
Your voice and style of presentation are so important in delivering a good ceremony as a life celebrant, helping people to mark the milestones in their lives. I enjoyed online voice coaching sessions with Paul as part of my Heart-led Ceremonies celebrant training – it was invaluable. With his wealth of experience, Paul really helps to guide you to get the most from your voice and how to use it to its best to create beautiful ceremonies, with stories well told. Lots of helpful tips, exercises and practical advice to enable you to bring your carefully crafted words to life in a clear and natural manner.
Paul immediately put me at ease and made me feel comfortable even though I personally felt very new to the work and process. His playful and relaxed way of engaging made the sessions really enjoyable and made any exercises feel accessible and not intimidating. He tailored the session to my specific requests and needs, making it extremely helpful as it personally addressed what I most needed to attend to most at that time. I would readily book more sessions with Paul for any areas I wish to further hone and develop and would highly recommend him to anyone wanting to learn how to better communicate and engage with public speaking.
Paul is a brilliant teacher and instructor. I really enjoyed working with him for my voice training as part of the Heart-led celebrant training programme.
Paul is a really engaging teacher; he is very empathetic, intuitive and understanding. I learned a lot from my sessions about voice work and all aspects of projection and protecting the voice. I found it really easy to have a conversation with him, about the voice or anything else for that matter! It was great to learn in such a fun and relaxed way.
I am looking forward to working with Paul again.
Veronika Robinson is editor and publisher of The Celebrant magazine, co-founder and co-tutor at Heart-led Ceremonies Celebrant Training, and has officiated internationally for almost 27 years. She welcomes submissions to The Celebrant magazine.