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8 Tips to Keep Your Voice Healthy and Strong
by Ramesha Nani
Those of us who speak often and for extended periods of time have all experienced vocal fatigue. While this feeling of tiredness when we talk improves only when we stop talking for some time, it is often quick to return as soon as we begin to speak again.
For someone who teaches, gives presentation, preaches, sells products on the phone, etc., vocal fatigue can be a real problem. Because of the demands of the job, they’re not likely to be able to stop and give their voice a break, allowing it to rest and heal. Unfortunately, this can eventually lead to more serious issues, like nodules, polyps, or contact ulcers, which are caused by vocal abuse (and overuse).
In this article I’m going to offer a few suggestions to prevent vocal abuse and to deal with it when it occurs.
- Get vocally “fit”. The vocal cords are, essentially, muscles. Just like any other muscle in the body, they need exercise to be kept in good shape and to make them strong and flexible. Using the voice for public speaking, as opposed to simple everyday conversation, can be compared to running a marathon, as opposed to taking a morning stroll. It takes strength and endurance. A serious public speaker needs to view speaking as an athlete views training for a sport: train the voice, warm it up before every talk, do everything you can to take care of it.
- Love your voice! As much as possible it is best to avoid “voice killers”, like smoking, sleep deprivation, alcohol, shouting, and too much caffeine. Be a good steward to your voice and it will serve you well in the long run.
- Water your vocal cords. Drink plenty of water! Your voice works best when you’re well hydrated. Remember that caffeinated beverages tend to dehydrate you. If you live in a dry environment, you can moisturize your throat using steam. Lean over a pot of boiling water with a towel covering your head and breathe deeply for about 10 minutes (don’t burn yourself!).
- Breathe! Many public speakers don’t breathe correctly. They take shallow breaths with their upper chest, instead of engaging their diaphragm, abdominal muscles, and floating ribs. Lack of proper breath support will most certainly lead to vocal fatigue, because it puts too much strain on the muscles around the throat. Full breathing allows the throat to stay relaxed and produce a full, resonant sound.
- Breathe more! The tendency to not breathe often enough is also very common. Training yourself to slow down and take frequent breaths throughout your talk will yield gains in clarity and vocal health, and will help keep nervousness under control!
- Stand (or sit) up straight. Besides being more pleasant and magnetic to look at, standing or sitting up straight frees up your abdomen and diaphragm, allowing you to speak with better breath support and avoid vocal fatigue.
- Speak in your natural range. Many speakers force their voice down to an unnaturally low range. This doesn’t allow the vocal cords to work correctly and they will tend to tire rather quickly. It also makes your voice raspy and not particularly attractive or magnetic.
- Learn to use the voice correctly. The best gift you can give your voice is vocal training. Neglected and overlooked by so many speakers, vocal training can be the key to bright, powerful, and confident presentations. Would you give a talk dressed in rags? Your voice is the garment of your words. It’s what people hear first, before any idea or concept is presented to them. Vocal training also ensures voice longevity. If you’re in for the long haul as a speaker, you need your voice to work at its best for years. Start now!
Speaking in the Wrong Range- NEW VIDEO!
Volume II of the Speaking Voice Limiters
This is a video series about the main vocal issues that speakers run into and how to address them. The second “limiter” is about the common issue of not being satisfied with the sound of one’s voice. There are more coming, so stay tuned!