chatting with...pamela hart

Sitting down, anytime, with Pamela Hart of Release Your Voice is a special treat.  Having met Pamela through the SFU Public Relations Certificate program where she teaches, I knew she was a connection I wanted to hold on to forever.  Pamela is radiantly energetic and passionate about communication.  She has the magical ability to turn the most nervous public speaker into an impromptu pro in just a few sessions.  It's for this reason I approached Pamela to do an event with YWiB to share her impressive skills with our amazing members.YWiB's newest member, Liz Sauve, was incredibly excited to sit down for a YWiB chit-chat with Pamela and share it with our wonderful community.  Check out her interview and then grab your ticket for our May 12th Get Vocalized! strategic communication event.

name three people you’d like to have a dinner party with

The first would have to be Michelle Obama.  She just seems really cool! I admire her as she doesn't appear to take herself too seriously, yet is a force to be reckoned with.  She has her own style and is not defined by other first ladies that we have seen.  Tommy Douglas is one of the greatest Canadians who embodies what I love about Canada and fosters a real sense of community.  I like the idea that one voice and one idea can change things.  Julia Child would make a delicious dinner.  I met her years ago in Boston shortly before she passed away.  I was in a play and she had nice things to say about every cast member when we met her, she was so gracious.

your career path hasn’t necessarily been linear - you were a theatre princess turned advertising and public relations director, and then in October 2008, you founded your own company, Release Your Voice. what would you say was the biggest challenge you overcame, and how did you do it?

Being in theatre is harder than being up in front of people and speaking now.  I found in theatre I didn't have control over my destiny, directors, they have the control not the actors.  Your destiny in theatre can be decided by factors such as your height.  A turning point for me was when a big actor in Vancouver refused to work with me because I was too tall.  I've worked with Darren Aranofsky and have been on Law and Order, although the experience was great, directors can love you one minute and then the next, they've moved on to another direction.

My biggest regret in leaving theatre would be not having yet won a Tonybut there's still time.  I still feel like I act every day!  I wanted more control over my life and got tired of someone else telling me what to do, so I founded Release Your Voice.  I became an entrepreneur and it blossomed into this business.  Never be afraid to reinvent yourself.

why did you decide to go into the business of coaching others strategic communication skills?

The company was quite broad when it started. I took an entrepreneurship program and thought I'd just do Public Relations but then this woman heard me speak and told me I was an amazing speaker and should share these skills with others.  I discovered that I have an empathetic ear and am good at coaching others in a positive way where people leave sessions feeling good about themselves.  My business grew through word of mouth and the next thing I knew I was off to Kosovo to work internationally.  There was a definite learning curve to being an entrepreneur and there is no such thing as an overnight success.  To be successful takes hard work, but if you love what you do, it's worth it.

 what skills do you find most women are hoping to learn from you?

Often times I find young women are looking to work on their voice because they sound too young and perhaps not professional.  A lot of it is just getting rid of small habits, such as the flirtatious head tilt that a lot of women do.  That is a subordinate behaviour, as is nodding all the time.  You can listen without nodding your head!  It's small, non-verbal things like this that can lead to a woman not being taken seriously.

In different cultures some women have been silenced.  Women need to learn they have a right to say whatever is on their mind.  Women are strong but you'd be surprised how many times I have been told that I've helped a woman find her voice after she has left an abusive relationship.  It's sad to me that so many women find themselves in those positions but it feels really good to know I have helped someone find their voice and feelempowered.

you list your interests as theatre, yoga, reading, and Africa. you also travel a lot for your work with international dignitaries and women in foreign nations. how do you juggle running your own company, travel, and still manage time to focus on your own personal interests?

This work-life balance has been the hardest thing for me and I'm just now starting to get a handle on it.  The first step is being able to say that I can't do it all, nor do I want to do it all.  Be realistic.  Ask for help when you need it because it's okay to not be great at everything!  Once you become more established, it's important to spend your time doing what you most value and surrounding yourself with positive people.

Try to find at least 25 minutes every day of downtime.  In Kosovo, I work with a lady named Bonnie, who was the PR Director for Prime Minister Mulroney.  She encouraged me to schedule everything - yoga, lunch, etc.  Also, fixing my technology has been a big thing.  Getting everything to jive together and working with someone else so that you don't wake up to 300 e-mails before you can start your day.  I'd rather spend a minimum amount of time on e-mail and a maximum amount of time planning my business, my future.

why do you think YWiB and the YWiB values are important for women in local as well as international business communities?

I think that these types of communities are incredibly important.  They are all about support and as women it's good for us to be able to talk with one another.  These conversations and having a sense of community, knowing that we are not alone, gives us power and acts as a sanctuary - a place in which women can be women.  We allow ourselves to have open conversations and laugh, give feedback and get reinforcement for who we are and what we want.

It's important for women to recognize they are not competing all the time for everything.  We can do the same things and still work together. This is one of the reasons I look forward to speaking at the Get Vocalized! Event on May 12th - I am so impressed with what YWiB is all about.  In the African American community, we have women called 'play mothers'.  Your play mothers are the wise people in your life, in addition to your biological mother, and I think it is really important to pass legacies off to future generations.  You know that saying "I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger?", well I want you all to know what I wish I knew at your age.


To learn more about Pamela Hart and how to Release Your Own Voice – come to the next YWiB event Get Vocalized! On May 12th.  Tickets are on sale today and they will go fast, don’t miss out!  Location to be finalized.