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Saving Your Voice

Olivia Fox Cabane

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What tricks, techniques, products or secrets do you use to preserve your voice on long speaking days?

-- Elizabeth Paddon

  • ALWAYS stretch and warm up your voice before speaking. Speaking is a dynamic form of communication so the instrument (us) has to be ready. Would you run for 5k without warming up? Simple warm-up exercises include yawning (lifts the palate), humming with a relaxed jaw, moving up and down thru your range on the vowel sound "ah" or "oo" and working the articulators (tongue and lips).
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
  • Breathe into your belly
  • Watch your posture. Poor posture is at the root of much vocal distress.
  • NEVER talk over the group to get their attention. Find an arm gesture or bring a bell.
  • Have lozenges on hand.
  • Avoid foods that are drying (salty, cheesey)
  • Shut up whenever possible.
  • Hum at the end of the day -- it helps the voice to balance itself.
  • If you continue to experience rawness in the throat -- get thyself to a good voice coach or an ENT who specializes in dealing with speakers/actors. It's not worth risking vocal nodes.

-- Gloria Pierre

  • Warm up the vocal muscles by yawning, grinning, scrounching up the face
  • Practice clear articulation with tongue twisters
  • Drink lots of water every day -- not just before your presentation
  • Beware of medications that could dry out your mouth
  • Drink warm drinks as they loosen your vocal cords. Avoid cold drinks which constrict them.
  • Rest your voice as much as possible the day before a long presentation.

-- Doug Dyment

It's important to get the regular (unflavored) Ricola cough drops, identifiable by their somewhat pedestrian yellow wrappers. An anecdote: I once visited backstage at the San Francisco Opera; almost every dressing table had a roll of Ricola drops!

-- Heather Curlee

  • Traditional Medicinals has a "Throat Coat" tea that literally coats and feels great.
  • I arrange more group and private work, book activities to help the audience apply what we are talking about immediately and give my voice a rest.
  • I will also ask them questions, ask them to share their opinions, and have someone else take a microphone through larger audiences so this "assistant" can repeat their statement if need be and then I can answer them.
  • Also video clips within a presentation help.

-- Trina Read

  • During my presentations: drinking 1 liter/hour of room-temperature water (ice is so bad for tender throats) with lemon wedges.
    - Yes, that's right, if I do a six-hour presentation I drink at least 6 liters of water
    - Yes I have to pee a lot -- however, drinking water benefits my health in many other ways while on the road.
  • In the vitamin aisle are zinc chewable tablets (usually with vitamin C). Far cheaper than zinc lozenges and work better.
  • When my throat is going a little hoarse, I never whisper, as whispering is harder on the larynx and vocal cords.

-- Lorri Allen

The best advice I have received is to make sure that you drink at least 64 ounces of water the day BEFORE a presentation.

-- Marsha Petrie Sue

Hot water and lemon juice. I use 1 cup of hot water and 1/3 c lemon juice. Throw in a little Splenda. Sip on this the entire time you talk.

-- Lois Duna

No tricks or products are needed. When you care for your physical voice it easily performs. The vocal folds are the smallest muscles in your body but they respond to a good workout no less than your abs. They also need to be hydrated and will respond adversely to dry and/or smoky air. The voice itself is produced by air. When your breath is well-supported by the diaphragm, and your airway (especially the throat) is open and relaxed, your voice will be naturally strong and long-lasting. If your voice is not lasting through a long day of speaking I would run, not walk, to get an evaluation because you are likely doing something that could be damaging.

-- Barry Walker

If you are using your voice properly, you should not be having these problems. Find a good voice coach, study and practice. If he or she makes it too technical or complex, find someone else. Using the voice properly is a simple & natural process. There's no great trickery here, just an understanding of how it feels and what to do.

-- Nancy Zare

I'm a great believer in supplements. The ones I use have been shown scientifically to boost the immune system as much as 900%. Based on a pilot study at the Hippocrates Institute conducted by a third-party research team, the immune system was raised 1800% when wellness-filtered water was used. The wellness filter comes as a convenient sport bottle with its own filter and straw built in. These glyconutrients ward off bacterial, viral, and fungal infections that can cause laryngitis or other problems. I also use a natural antihistamine for allergies. Of course I also take an anti-oxidant, multivitamins that are 100% bio-available, probiotics, etc. For the past 5 years on this regime, I haven't had one sick day! If you pay attention to prevention, the results come naturally.

SpeakerNet News is produced by Rebecca Morgan and Ken Braly. It is not affiliated with the National Speakers Association. Send comments or suggestions