Wednesday 16 July 2008

Training tip: Warm up your voice before class

Classroom training is a performance -- a vocal performance, like singing or acting. As a trainer, my voice is an important asset to my job, so protecting that voice is important.

One thing I've learned to do before class each day is to warm up, just like a singer warms up. Here's my routine.

Before warming up, I drink some water to make sure my throat is moist. Then I start by singing the musical scales (do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do) up and down very softly. This acts as a diagnostic: I can usually tell pretty quickly how strong my voice is that day, if it's scratchy or clear, wavering or rock solid.

Then I add a bit more power, a bit more volume. I do some more scales, then go directly from low C on the scale (do) to an octave higher (DO) and back down again (do) a few times.  I notice how quickly my voice was able to make the change, and how closely I "nailed" the note.

Next, I'll sing a familiar song, especially if the radio is on. This means singing notes in different order than just the scales.  Again, I watch the transitions, looking for places where my voice may be a bit weak today. Then I know in the classroom I'll have to moderate my volume or I won't have a voice left by the end of the day.

Finally, I'll talk.  I put a smile on my face and say, "Good Morning!  Welcome to the Training Center.  My name is Bob Watkins, and today, we'll be talking about..."  I may ramble a bit about what we're going to cover that day: this helps me focus as well as lets me hear how I'm sounding.

I often do this warmup in the car while driving from the hotel to the training location. It looks funny, but when I hit the classroom, I'm ready to go. And, I don't run out of voice about 3 or 4 in the afternoon, as I used to before I adopted this warmup routine.

Sunday 13 July 2008

Not about the coffee

With all due respect to my colleague Jon Emmons, whose blog "Life After Coffee" can be found on my Blogroll, there are times when it's not about the coffee.

While working on my blog redesign this morning, I listened to a two-part podcast, by Curt Rosengren of The M.A.P. Maker blog. This is one of my favorite blogs for getting and keeping motivated.

The podcast series was an interview with the former president of Starbucks Coffee Company, Howard Behar.  (I learned a lot about Starbucks in the 12 years I lived in Seattle before moving to Dallas. They were even one of my customers: I taught customized Oracle classes there.)

In his new book, Howard says that in a successful company like Starbucks, "It's Not About The Coffee," it's about the people. Some great takeaways from the podcast:

  • We spend most of our time growing up being told "No" to things. Subconsciously, we feel we've arrived as an adult when we have the power to say "No" to others. But it's much more fun to be able to say "Yes" instead, especially to customers.
  • We sometimes wear many hats, being different people in different situations. Howard's philosophy is to "Wear One Hat," that is, be yourself. Align your values and outlook with a job that fits you.
  • If you're having what Howard calls a "gray day," accept that. He talks to himself (sometimes out loud!) and asks, "What's up with this gray feeling?" and then, "It's okay not to be UP today." The simple act of giving himself permission to be how he is, often dissipates much of the gray feeling.