This week’s Kajabi Hero is very inspiring and I was so excited to sit down with her and hear her story from start to finish.
Elissa Weinzimmer is the founder of Voice Body Connection in New York City, where she teaches people how their voice works and how to use it more effectively.
She works with singers, performers, public speakers, and fitness coaches to improve their vocal health and confidence.
Turning Life's Hardships Into A Passion
She started her career very early in life with ballet lessons at age 3, vocal lessons at age 12, starring in countless musical theater productions, and even directing her own siblings in living room performances at age 9. Her identity was completely found in performing.
So naturally she pursued her love of all things musical at USC in Southern California, and she likens her college life to the movie, ‘Pitch Perfect,’ because of her involvement in an a capella group. She was also directing a play and finishing out her last semester of college when she got sick with Mono. Realizing she only had a few months left of her college career, she decided to live it up and start drinking and partying more.
All of these things created a perfect storm when she woke up one morning with severe pain in her throat and no voice to speak of. Two different doctors diagnosed her with ‘vocal trauma,’ put her on vocal rest for one month, and Elissa resorted to walking around with a little notepad to communicate with people around her. The biggest fear she experienced was that of not performing anymore. If she couldn’t trust in or rely on her voice, then she would have no confidence to be in the spotlight.
She admits now that looking back, she had taken her gifts and passions for granted. Her whole identity came to a crashing halt with her diagnosis. She didn’t understand how her vocal chords worked, and so she wasn’t properly taking care of them and didn’t know how to fix them once they were damaged.
This led her to researching what had happened to her, discovering how the vocal chords work, and from there it was a natural progression to her decision to become a voice teacher. She stopped performing at age 21 and focused more of her attention on directing and teaching. Elissa pursued her Master’s Degree in Theater and Voice Pedagogy, which simply means she teaches others the proper way to use their voice. Most of Elissa’s clients come to her after seeing an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor or a speech pathologist. She really focuses on the tension in the muscles in the throat and explains that it can take a long time to unwind.
Being Authentic Will Take You Far
Instead of ‘fake it till you make it,’ we aim to ‘be it until you achieve it,’ because being real and being you is much more important that attaining some goal or purpose as a phony.
The classes she offers on Kajabi help to educate and inform people how their voices work and why she uses the techniques that she does. She helps actors, singers, and performers who have pre existing voice conditions, but she also meets a lot of people who simply want more confidence in using their voice. The name of one her classes is, “How to Sound Like Yourself,’ which teaches people the skills of projection, how to have more presence, and how to use your authentic voice. Speaking of being authentic, Elissa shares how the authenticity of Kajabi is one of the traits that drew her to use our platform. We are normal people, and just like our clients, we love to share what we are passionate about.
Elissa started offering her services as a voice coach while still living in Los Angeles and before starting her Masters. She remembers that time of very few students as being humbling, learning so much, and giving her a foundation of things to come. Her lifelong goal was always to move to New York City to become a Broadway star, and while it was still her dream, she knew she’d be going for different purposes. Currently Elissa lives in Brooklyn and instead of starring on Broadway, she is teaching people who star on Broadway. Her perseverance is incredibly inspiring, and her passion for her craft has continued to grow.
Her reach isn’t limited to only New York City. Using Zoom and Kajabi, she is able to teach people from China, Europe, and Australia. Some of her course offerings are pre-recorded lessons online, some are live one-on-one with individual clients over video chat, and of course she has her studio in New York where she meets with people face-to-face. She offers different packages in differing lengths of time that clients can choose from. After that it’s really tailored to each client on an as needed basis.
I asked Elissa if she could give us any tips for people just starting out or toying with the idea of teaching courses online. She wanted to pass on some valuable information that she was taught from a British voice teacher and it’s called the Three Circle of Energy.
The first circle is internal in nature, in that you are withholding your energy from the outside world and more concerned with yourself. A good example of this type of behavior would be people riding the subway in New York.
The third circle is the opposite of the first, in that you are more concerned with the outside world than yourself. An example of third circle energy is when a server from a restaurant walks up to your table and asks what they can do for you.
Second circle energy is when the first and third circle overlap, and you are truly present and connected with the world around you.
It can be very challenging to be in the second circle when you have pre-recorded a lesson and you aren’t actually engaging with another human being. One of the biggest challenges is that there is no give and take or back and forth in a pre-recorded conversation. There is also no room for feedback or going over a topic again if someone doesn’t understand.
Elissa gives some great advice in how to overcome these issues. She suggests imagining that the camera is a person and making sure your eyes are looking at the camera, not at the screen in which you see yourself.
Another tip is to not overwhelm the listener with a stream of information, but to leave spaces and time in the conversation for them to process what you’ve just said.
Elissa shared another really great point that applies to anyone using Kajabi now or even thinking about using it in the future. Being a teacher of anything, it’s natural to be very concerned with being a good and effective teacher so that you have a positive and lasting impact on your students. The irony of that thinking, however, is that you actually become more effective when you can put your students first in your mind, and put yourself on the backburner.
There is value in repeating things. When your focus and concern is your students (or clients), it takes away the pressure of being the ‘perfect’ teacher and even the fear of failure seems to disappear because you are no longer the primary focus of your thoughts. Another surprising fact is that any mistakes and mess ups can be perfect learning opportunities
When you are present and focused on your student, you’ll be amazed at how the insecurities and bad speaking habits just slip away.
It’s Not Just About Singing
Elissa is also a certified yoga instructor, and she explains that she teaches people to use their whole body when they speak or sing. We do a disservice to ourselves when we only use a small part of ourselves because it takes away from us sounding authentic.
Breath support is what supports our voice. In her main course offering on Kajabi, one of the main things Elissa communicates is that our voice travel up and out, which most people have never really given much thought to. An example of a poor habit that a lot of people unknowingly practice is when we are screaming or yelling at a sports game or another event, we push down physically with our bodies and this has a great affect on the muscle tension that we spoke about earlier.
In her kindness, Elissa walked me through a breathing exercise to show me how she teachers her students to support their voice through breathing. You can even practice this right now as you are reading or watching this. Stand up to your feet, place your hand on your lower belly, you’re going to make the sound ‘shhhh,’ and as you do you want to draw your tummy into yourself. Then release and practice it over again. The sign that you’re doing this properly is that your shoulders will raise. Now try saying words like, ‘Hi’ or ‘Good,” and you will notice that you have a little more power behind your voice as you speak.
Reaching People Online
I asked Elissa how she reaches out to clients and leads them to her online courses. A lot of her clients come to her from word-of-mouth, and she does use SEO and Facebook ads.
Her most valuable piece of advice is to research and know your client, and then speak directly to that person. She has discovered that she has two main types of clients, and she greatly relates with both of them. There are the performers and speakers who have problems or issues and muscle tension, and then there is the young, vibrant entrepreneurs who want more confidence in their voice. To simplify this, we can look at the method this way:
- Accept yourself for the way you are
- Identify the people you want to attract
- Have confidence to speak into those people’s lives
A pitfall that we can fall into is trying to be everything to everybody, and while that is admirable, it’s typically not very powerful.
I asked Elissa what is coming in the future for her. She is getting ready to leave on a two-month sabbatical, because some of her college professors encouraged her that in order to be a good teacher, you need to take time to rest. Here at Kajabi we fully believe in working hard and then playing hard, and it really is a key to being successful. There is no use in drawing from an empty well. She is also planning on starting an online community for people to find support from each other.
She will continue to make her classes available on Kajabi and meeting over video chat with specific clients. She teaches live group classes for the students who sign up, and then records it and puts it up on Kajabi for others to benefit from.
You can find Elissa and all that she offers at Voice Body Connection.
Take your cue from Elissa and turn your pain into a passion that can be shared with the world. Kajabi is here to help you do that.
Find your true voice and try Kajabi for free today.
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