I’m the voice and communication coach for Heart-led Celebrant Training, and I also work with celebrants who’ve trained elsewhere but haven’t had the vocal and presentation training they really needed.

In a nutshell, I help celebrants to improve their voice; and show them how make their ceremonies come alive.

You might not have come across a voice coach like me, who particularly likes coaching celebrants. I’m a rare breed. If there are any more us voice and communication people around, we haven’t met. We should be a protected species.

I enjoy working with celebrants-in-training because they’re new to it, and they’re something of a blank sheet (in the nicest possible way 😊). But despite the fact that they know that they’re in for some voice training when they’re with Heart-led, and they kind of know that what I teach is essential for them to become fully rounded celebrants, it’s not specifically why they came to us.

I also love working with professional celebrants who’ve trained elsewhere (or haven’t trained at all). They almost certainly haven’t had in-depth voice and communication training either. One of the reasons I get a lot out of coaching working celebrants is that because they’re experienced, they have an inkling of what’s missing from their ceremonies. But think about this (and read it slowly 😊). In any field, most people know what they know. And they have a notion of what they don’t know…  but for all they know, there could be whole world of things that relate to what they’re interested in that have never entered their minds. And that’s what happens in my sessions with working celebrants – and why I find it so satisfying.

The comments I get are along the lines of “I’d never thought of that”; “Why hasn’t anyone told me that before?”; “That makes so much sense”; and “What a great tip!” The result is that each person I work with ends up having the tools at their disposal to improve how their voice sounds, and even more importantly, to be able to dramatically improve how they communicate their carefully written words. They’re able to bring their ceremonies to life.

Usually, a celebrant reads a ceremony to the people listening, and that’s a huge potential stumbling block. An alternative to reading is using ‘bullet-points’. That can work reasonably well, but there’s a risk that the speaker won’t be completely accurate with names and dates. And it’s easy to miss out other important information, events and carefully crafted turns of phrase.

Another alternative is to learn the ceremony by heart. Good luck with that – especially if there’s a quick turnaround, which is often the case for funerals and cremations. And anyway, a lot of people when speaking from memory sound just like they’re reading.

How can you read a script out loud while sounding spontaneous and like you’re not reading it? Well, that’s one of my specialist subjects! The techniques are almost too simple to believe. Putting them into practice takes… practice, but once you have that skill under your belt, it will lift your presentation out of the ordinary.

I divide into five the styles of how I hear celebrants present.

Here’s my take on those styles:

  1. Flat and boring, with repetitive falling inflections.
  2. A false, almost pious veneer of concern, especially in funerals. Again, repetitive!
  3. The short-story style. This can work quite well, even very well, but it still sounds like the celebrant is reading.
  4. The recalling/considering style, where the celebrant honours each change of thought as they move through the ceremony, which results in a natural, lifelike presentation.
  5. This is the same as the previous style, except that the celebrant is open to reflecting (subtly) any feelings which may arise as they consider what they’re about to say. This can lead to a rich, multi-layered presentation, full of natural variety.

As I mention in a video clip elsewhere on this website, I have two aims: for you to have a flexible, pleasant-sounding voice – and for you to be able to speak in front of a gathering of people, large or small, in an interesting, natural and dynamic way.

It’s always up to the client as to how far we go with any aspect of the training – voice, and communication. Up to a point, as far as the voice is concerned, it’s possible to work to maximise the capabilities of your voice as it currently is: making the most of what you’ve got – this requires the least amount of time and work.

The next stage is to use a couch-to-5km approach to your voice, where you listen forensically to how you sound, and decide what aspect of it could do with some adjustment. Then you work on it for, say, 20-30 minutes for several days, and by that time, you’ll probably be well on your way with what you’re doing, and you may then move on to another aspect.

The third approach is similar to the second, but more intensive – couch to 10km, if you like – and needs more time and dedication.

The communication side of things is incredibly easy to understand. It’s based on a simple exercise which involves you recording yourself – on a phone, or whatever. Almost without fail, you’ll be astonished as to how natural and interesting you sound. The challenge is to be able to sound as natural and interesting when reading a ceremony – to come across when you’re reading, as if you’re not reading. This is even more important than how you sound! I have a selection of exercises and tips, some of which can be quite fun, which can enable you to take off the shackles, and help you sound spontaneous.

It’s beneficial to think of a ceremony, or just about any form of public speaking as a journey made up of a sequence of thoughts – each thought being a stepping stone along the way. The speaker’s goal is to get from stone to stone (thought to thought) as naturally and realistically as possible. If you cut any corners, it won’t sound natural. I’d love to help you reach that goal.

If you’re interested in training to become a celebrant, go to Heart-led Celebrants.