Empowering Voices: From Stages to Strategy in The Business World
By age 3 Cindy Ashton was already wearing sequins, singing classics and dancing around her living room to her audience of millions. Since then, she has graced thousands of stages and is an Award-Winning TV Host and celebrity interviewer. Bringing her flair for stagecraft to the business world, she works with her clients to Speak from their Power and go from Established to Known in their industry. She is an authority on presentation skills, speaking voice, body language, content delivery, messaging and leadership presence. In building a strategy to get her clients KNOWN in their industry, she builds out a strategy for them to land on big stages, media and more. She is also the author of Liberate Your Voice: How to Trust Your Power in a World that Shuts You Down. She has received awards from President Obama and Queen Elizabeth II for her lifetime of volunteerism and has appeared in multiple media including ABC, Inc. Magazine and Forbes.
How did your early experiences shape your passion for performance and communication?
Growing up with an invisible disability and illness and being in and out of the hospitals throughout my childhood, I would often advocate for what I needed but I wasn't heard. I felt invisible like so many others do when they try to speak up but are dismissed in some way. As a result, I have dedicated my life to learning everything I possibly could to do with body language, speaking voice, influence, how to communicate and anything else to do with getting your voice heard. In addition to that, my earliest memories as a child were putting on sequins, dimming the lights in the living room, putting on the record player and singing to my imaginary audience of millions. I always knew that I was going to be a performer. There is nothing more powerful than being on stage and creating an experience for the audience that brings them joy or heals them in some way.
What inspired you to transition your skills into the business world?
Interestingly, I had never intended to be a business owner. When I was in university, I was bagging groceries for $5.85 an hour and I thought to myself, “Wow, how am I ever going to pay my university bills this way?” By that time in my life, I had already studied singing, dancing and acting extensively and worked with some of the top Broadway professionals. I thought to myself, “Well, I love to teach. I am in a teachers' college. Maybe I should teach people singing, piano and presentation skills.” I put an ad in the Pennysaver and put flyers all over my neighbourhood, This was back in the day when the internet was just starting to come into the world. I got my first set of students and I fell in love with it. When I finished university, I continued to do this work and over the years I stopped teaching piano and singing. I started focusing on delivering my presentation training to established business owners and leaders on how to Speak from their Power. It’s been 28 years and I still love it!
Talk to us about the science behind being healthy sexuality, being magnetic and speaking from your power.
In our body, we have several nerves, that when activated, allow us to be highly magnetic and draw people to us. The first one is the celiac nerves, also known as your emotional brain or your second brain. They are about an inch or two above your belly button. I love training my clients on how to breathe into those nerves and activate them. Why? When you do, it raises your intuition and your emotional intelligence. The benefit is that it allows you to be able to read other people, sense what they are feeling and be able to respond to their specific needs.
There are also certain breathing techniques I use with my clients that when they breathe into their celiac nerves, they release oxytocin – the love drug. And no, you won’t be suddenly falling in love with people but it does make you highly irresistible. People find themselves gravitating to you and wanting to listen to what you have to say.
The second set of nerves is your splanchnic nerves. These nerves sit at the bottom of your pelvic floor and are your sexual nerves. While you definitely do not want to be turning people on or flirting with them, activating your splanchnic nerves, unlocks healthy sexuality which again makes you highly magnetic. Both the celiac and splanchnic nerves are great for introverts and extroverts. For introverts, because they tend to be shy, learning being able to activate these nerves allows them to be magnetic without being over the top. For extroverts, because they tend to be so over the top, learning how to activate these nerves helps them to be more present and grounded in how they come across so they're not overwhelming to others.
How can your voice and body language influence your ability to sell and be influential?
In addition to activating your celiac and splenic nerves to draw people to you, the other thing that you want to do is make sure that you are releasing any kind of stress you are carrying. The reason why is that any kind of stress that we experience, whether it's physical, emotional, mental or spiritual, directly influences how our voice and body language comes across.
Here are some examples: if you are holding stress in your chest, it often makes your voice sound unnaturally loud which really turns people off and comes across as too aggressive. If you are slouching, you look insecure and your voice often sounds softer because part of your airways are cut off from the slouching. It’s hard to sell if people don’t see you as confident. If you tend to hold your breath at any point in your breathing cycle, it makes you sound wispier and like you're tired which doesn't make people excited to work with you.
What are some of the keys for businesses to go from Established to Known™?
To go from Established to Known, you need: (I) A Brand Experience that Builds a Tribe: Going beyond your brand assets (logo, colours, fonts), it’s the personality of the brand and inspiring people to buy into something bigger. Think about Nike, they are selling the idea of being a champion which builds a tribe of engaged followers. (II) To Speak from Your Power: It’s beyond just having great content and being confident in your presentation style. Most people have good content but that content isn’t shaped in a way to lead people to the sale. Imagine if you could take people on an emotional journey in ALL parts of your business and speak your message from a deep place of truth that inspires people to buy from you and spread the word. (III) Recognizable and Reputable Media Attention: Being interviewed and quoted by the media automatically gives you 3rd party credibility. Imagine how people would perceive you if you were to be interviewed or quoted in the New York Times, O Magazine, on ABC or another major media outlet.
How did your lifetime of volunteerism lead to recognition and awards from President Obama and Queen Elizabeth II?
I had never sought out either of these truly amazing awards. Since I was a kid, I was always an activist standing up for the underdog. My first volunteer mission was when I was 12 years old and raising money for the World Wildlife Fund. Since then, I have performed numerous concerts to raise money for various causes, I have been a spokeswoman for various organizations and loved giving back. For the “Call to Service” award from President Obama, I remember I was volunteering at an event to raise money for a homeless shelter. A woman came up to me and said that she had noticed me in the community doing a lot of work and said that I had qualified for his award. For a medal from the late Queen Elizabeth ll, one of the charities I was a spokeswoman for had nominated me. Truly honoured and grateful.
What motivated you to write the book "Liberate Your Voice: How to Trust Your Power in a World that Shuts You Down"?
Interestingly, I had actually never intended to write a book however I got an offer to speak and it was a company that I really loved and wanted to speak for but instead of paying me a fee, they offered to purchase a large quantity of my books. Between my passion for this company and my passion for training others on how to get their voices hear, it was the perfect opportunity for me to be able to write this book. I was really excited to have the opportunity to create something that would be lighthearted, fun and inspiring while offering a lot of hands-on tools for people to really be able to find their voice in multiple ways.
How does it feel to be recognized and featured in prominent media platforms such as ABC, Inc. Magazine, and Forbes?
Whether it’s being featured in the media or taking the stage or screen to sing, act or speak, it’s an honour. Truly. There are so many brilliant and talented humans in the world. I appreciate every opportunity that comes my way to be able to share my unique insights and perspectives on my subject matter or be able to perform artistic work.