You need to ensure that before a training session you warm up your voice so it doesn't get strained. This is especially important if you are delivering an all-day training session, or if you have a number of sessions very close together over a few days.
Through years of experience in amateur dramatics, I've developed six top tips to prepare your voice for speaking:
- Drink more water: Being dehydrated will affect all the lubrication systems in your body. Drink eight glasses of water daily. Keep the dehydrating tea, coffee, alcohol and soft drinks to a minimum. If you have a dry throat while training, sip a small amount of water, hold it in your mouth for a second, and then swallow.
- Rest and sleep: Sufficient rest and sleep are vital to keep the voice healthy. If the body is tired, it will not be able to support the voice effectively. Don't forget to rest your voice if you have been practising a lot, or you have a cold.
- Relax: Avoid stress if possible as it contributes to vocal fatigue and strain. If you're feeling stressed try to find time to relax – even if just for a few minutes. Also try walking, swimming, tai chi or yoga.
- Irritants: Irritants like smoke are best avoided. Cigarettes dry the throat and affect the mucous lining. Apart, from making you more prone to sore throats and coughs, smoke will impact negatively on your breath control. Fumes from varnish or paint can also affect the throat, so household tasks involving both, should be avoided (a good excuse to ask someone else to do them!)
- Exercise: Regular exercise and keeping fit are also important. However if you are doing sit-ups or weight training in a gym, care is needed. It is easy to get tight around your throat area and strain your voice.
- Warm up: All the muscles connected to voice production, and not just the vocal chords, need to be warmed up before going into action, just like the other muscles in the body. A five minute vocal workout (see below) should be sufficient.
The simple vocal workout:
- Stand tall. Start with a full body stretch. Lift your left arm as high as it can go. Repeat the full body stretch with the right arm.
- Wrap your arms around yourself, as far as you can. Roll your shoulders forwards, then backwards.
- Point your elbows as high as your can. This will stretch the diaphragm.
- Point your chin to the ceiling. Then point it to the floor. Look to the left, then to the right.
- Stick your tongue out as far as it will go. Then, try to touch your nose with your tongue. Then, move your tongue down as far as possible. Move your tongue from side to side.
- Open your mouth as wide as you can. Roll your Rs. Puff your cheeks out. Do a growling sneer. Say your vowels like Eliza Doolittle, and open your mouth as wide as you can.
- Rest your chin on your chest, and inhale by counting to ten. Exhale by counting to 15. Puff out the remaining air, like blowing out birthday candles. Repeat two or three times.
- Finish off with some tongue twisters such as, "She sells sea shells on the sea shore".
Start to build these tips into your routine now. Joining a speaking club will give you that supportive environment to practice in too – and keep your voice in tip-top condition.
Christina Hession has been a member of Phoenix-Tara Toastmasters in Dunboyne, County Meath, Ireland for three years. Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. There are over 250 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7000 members. For information about local Toastmasters clubs, please visit www.toastmasters.org
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