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VOCAL TIPS FOR PUBLIC SPEAKERS (AND OTHERS- WFH, ACTORS, TEACHERS ETC.)

(This post comes as an answer to a query I received on Instagram.)



Public Speaking is an exaggerated form of day to day speaking.

We exaggerate every facet of our expression in an attempt to get through to our audience- to educate them, convince them, entertain them. In general, public speaking demands that the person be louder than average, use greater range of vocal tones and textures and express emotions in an exaggerated way.


But many people lack the physical conditioning to speak in this way on a regular basis. Particularly those who occasionally may speak without amplification, people like teachers, actors are particularly at risk of hurting themselves, especially if they already have the tendency to develop hoarseness or vocal fatigue regularly.



Are public speakers the only ones at risk?

Unfortunately, the lockdown and 'work-from-home' has put a lot more people at the risk of developing vocal fatigue. The following reasons come to mind:

  1. Remote working makes it necessary to people to communicate via calls and video conferencing more frequently. This equals to increased vocal demands.

  2. Poor posture habits. Presentations can be done while sitting in a manner inconducive to extended speaking (slumped over a couch for instance) or (very often) even while lying in bed.

  3. Though rarer, covid can affect one’s breathing capacity and create vocal fatigue, if one speaks for too long in the months immediately following the infection.

  4. Lack of exercise, poor sleeping habits, poor diet, all contribute to reduced vocal stamina.


Why does your voice feel tired after a long time of speaking?

This is a result of inefficient breathing and the straining and tightening of the muscles of the throat, around the vocal folds in order to compensate for poor breath flow.

For good vocal health, the entire body must participate in the process of creating your voice. For this, the large muscles forming your core must coordinate to ensure free expansion and contraction of the lungs and movement of the diaphragm. When these muscles are trained, they can engage and contract in a very controlled way and minutely regulate how much air hits your vocal folds and at what speed.

How can one strengthen their voice for free and powerful speaking?


IN THE LONG TERM

Consider working on the following areas:

  1. Breathing

  2. Posture

  3. Resonance


We have a detailed article on posture.

Read here ---->(https://www.goalusvoice.com/post/you-can-t-achieve-good-posture-by-sitting-standing-straight)

Posture and breathing are essentially two sides of the same coin. They are closely related to one another. Poor posture hinders the free movement of the diaphragm and the expansion and contraction of the lungs. Good breathing automatically aligns the body perfectly and conversely, incorrect breathing causes more strain and exertion on the muscles creating more tightness.

Many of us, over time have lost the ability to support our voice with our entire body due to decades of bad posture habits. What often goes unnoticed is that our state of mind and psychology around public speaking may also have a huge impact on how relaxed we can stay while talking.

When one works on training their support muscles (basically the entire core) to participate in the production of the voice, these larger muscles take on the task of fuelling your voice. You unlock the ability to speak in a more powerful way and for more time with much less strain around the throat.

Resonance: This is a very important factor that determines how our voice finally sounds. The voice right at the level of the vocal folds is a mere buzzing sound, similar to the rubbing of a bee’s wings. This sound however travels through the mouth space and hits the different resonant pockets in our skull, gets amplified and comes out as our voice through the articulators (the lips, teeth, tongue, soft palate mainly).

The bones in our face perform the job of amplifying our voice. The phenomenon is pretty similar to when you place your vibrating phone on a wooden or metal table and hear the vibrations amplified manifold.


Now, there are a lot of liquid deposits in our face hindering the sound waves from accessing all this bone. For instance, the sinuses could be clogged. Then there are deposits of lymphatic fluid causing puffiness around the face. When we practise resonance exercises and facial massage on a regular basis, a lot of the fluid begins to drain from the face and clears up the resonant spaces in our head. As a result, our voice gets louder without the need for any excess effort.

IN THE SHORT TERM:

  1. Consider warming up at the beginning of any demanding vocal task. Simple exercises like lip trills or straw phonation are quick and incredibly effective at warming up the voice and preventing damage.

  2. Get into the habit of stretching your body and your facial muscles at regular intervals or right before a demanding vocal task. Yawning is a great way of stretching your facial muscles and loosening up the hard to reach muscles at the back of your throat.

  3. Observe the angle of your computer. Make sure you’re not having to look up or down at your screen. Ensure the screen is at eye level and you’re looking straight ahead at your screen.

  4. Practise laryngeal massage. This will help relieve a lot of tightness in your muscles around the larynx. However tread with caution and use very little pressure or as much pressure as feels comfortable. Any pain or discomfort is a red flag. Discontinue immediately if it doesn’t feel right.

  5. Take regular vocal breaks. If the option to schedule calls on your own time is available, ensure you have an hour or two’s gap between your calls. Whenever possible, take the entire day off from speaking.

  6. Get a good night’s sleep. Steam inhalation early in the morning or upto two times a day can be very beneficial for keeping your folds hydrated. However, experiment with this and avoid steaming twice everyday if it causes dryness or discomfort.

Vocal health as a speaker is a lot of dedicated work towards the care of our voice. Short term changes definitely help but its the long term training that truly helps to create lasting and dramatic changes in the health, sound and feeling of your voice.


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