Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!
Look after your voice All public speakers need to know how to maintain their most important asset. If you’re a professional talker, you can’t afford to risk damage to this all important tool.
The voice is easily affected by fatigue and tension, as well as by other health issues. If something in your life is stressing you your voice may show the effect. Looking after your voice includes using it properly (for more, see my post on voice production), and also doing vocal warmups.
A few simple steps which are good for your general health will also be good for your voice. Here are some simple dos and don’ts.
• Drink plenty of water. Hydration is invaluable for your voice
• Don’t smoke
• Get enough rest
• Keep tension to a minimum (learn relaxation, take up yoga, find ways to release your accumulated tension)
• Avoid shouting and yelling or straining your voice.
• Do a daily voice work out to warm it up and place it well
A daily vocal warm up improves the quality of the sounds you make and helps prevent vocal injury. It’s exactly the same principle as at the gym or playing sport. A daily voice work out will help your stay in good vocal condition. It’s essential before activities like public speaking, classroom teaching, or making sure you can be heard over the background noise at a party.
The exercises below come from The American Academy of Otolaryngoogy
Warm Up #1
Breath Relaxation: Releases tension often associated in the breathing mechanism that can interfere with effective voice production. Ordinarily, if there is tension when breathing, that tension radiates to the voice box muscles. Take a normal breath and then exhale. Make sure your shoulders and chest are low and relaxed. Repeat many times making sure that your breaths are focused low in the abdomen and that there is not associated chest, neck, or shoulder tension while breathing. You can place one hand on your abdomen to remind you to keep the focus low and away from the chest and shoulders. Hold an “s” sound like in hiss when you exhale.
Warm Up #2
Jaw Release: Reduces tension in the mouth and jaw area during speaking and singing. Place the heels of each hand directly below the cheek bone. Pushing in and down from the cheeks to the jaw, massage the facial muscles. Allow your jaw to passively open as you move the hands down the face. Repeat several times.
Warm Up #3
Lip Trills: Release lip tension and connects breathing and speaking. Releases tension in the vocal folds. Place your lips loosely together release the air in a steady stream to create a trill or raspberry sound. First try it on an “h” sounds. Then repeat on a “b” sound. Hold the sound steady and keep the air moving past the lips. Next try to repeat the b-trill gliding gently up and down the scales. Don’t push beyond what it comfortable at the top or bottom of the scale.
Warm Up #4
Tongue Trill: Relaxes the tongue and engages breathing and voice. Place your tongue behind your upper teeth. Exhale and trill your tongue with a “r” sound. Hold the sound steady and keep the breath connected. Now try to vary the pitch up and down the scale while trilling. Again, don’t push beyond what is comfortable at the top or bottom of your scale.
Warm Up #5
Two Octave Scales: Provides maximum stretch on the vocal folds. Start in a low pitch and gently glide up the scale on a “me” sound. Don’t push the top or bottom of your range but do try to increase the range gently each time you do the scales. Now reverse and glide down the scale from the top to the bottom on an “e” sound. You can try this on the “oo” sound also.
Warm Up #6
Sirens/Kazoo Buzz: Improves the resonant focus of the sound and continues work with maximal stretch on the vocal folds. The mouth postures are easily made by pretending you are sucking in spaghetti with an inhalation. On exhalation make the “woo” sound. It will be a buzz like sound. Hold the sound steady for 2-3 attempts. Now use the woo sound to go up and down the scales.
Warm Up #7
Humming: Highlights anterior frontal vibrations in your lips, teeth and facial bones. Begin with lips gently closed with jaw released. Take an easy breath in and exhale while saying “hum”. Begin with the nasal sound /m/ and gently glide from a high to a low pitch as if you were sighing. Don’t forget your vocal cool down after extensive vocal use. Gently humming feeling the focus of the sound on the lips is an excellent way to cool down the voice. You should hum gentle glides on the sound “m” feeling a tickling vibration in the lip/nose are.
Warm Up #8
Cool Down: Don’t forget your vocal cool down after extensive vocal use. Gently humming feeling the focus of the sound on the lips is an excellent way to cool down the voice. You should hum gentle glides on the sound “m” feeling a tickling vibration in the lip/nose are. Click here for an example of a cool-down.