A lawyer has his briefs and his arguments. A basketball player needs a basketball and a plumber uses a snake to clear a drain. What do these professionals (who get paid a lot of money) all have in common? Without one specific tool, they cannot do their job properly. In addition, if that tool is not in tiptop working condition — their job will become more difficult, if not impossible to perform!
Well, guess what? If a public speaker wants to make an impact with his or her audience, the one tool he absolutely needs to protect is his voice. Doing so, will allow you to effortlessly do your job so your audience can enjoy your message and content.
Before I worked as a professional speaker and humorist, I trained as a professional actor. I did oodles and oodles of stage work that allowed me to speak on a stage and be completely heard (without straining) in the last row of the theatre/auditorium.
I accomplished this with hours of voice training and the proper use of my voice using my diaphragm.
You see, your voice box is a muscle, and just like any other part of your body, if you abuse it–you will lose it! And if you don’t take care of your body and don’t get enough sleep or you’re fatigued, I guarantee you, as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west — your voice will be the first thing to go! Hello, laryngitis!
Your body and voice should work in peak performance mode so your inspiring message and content ring loud and clear like a bell!
Please don’t rely on the sound system to help you out if your voice is scratchy, hurting, or withering away due to fatigue.
The result will be a scratchy voice that is NOW louder to your audience and more annoying to listen to. Remember: If your voice fails, you’re a goner! Also apologizing to your audience every few minutes will not help the matter. They don’t care. They want a speaker they can ALL enjoy now!
What to Drink to Protect Your Voice
Yes, drinking is very important. Of course, we’re talking about drinking the right fluids that are NON alcoholic. Working pros know that alcohol is a clear no-no before preparing to speak in front of an eager audience.
I can’t tell you how many times at night before doing a corporate show, a client or an attendee has offered me a cocktail before bounding onto the platform.
I always turned it down, and I hope you do the same. You see, not only will the alcohol dry out your throat, but the combination of drinking it and talking to a crowd are fraught with danger.
Try this on for size. You could forget what you wanted to say; you could stumble off the stage and into the audience. Landing off the platform and into the lap of an audience member is NOT how you want to be remembered, do you? And just imagine what the evaluations forms will point out.
“Speaker was pretty decent until she stumbled off the platform and landed on me breaking my collar bone! Would enjoy hearing her again when she’s sober and I am healed!”
Again, do yourself a favor: Drink alcohol AFTER your presentation during your down time in the hotel bar!
That said, you should do everything you can to lubricate your voice and not have phlegm rear its ugly head. The best thing to drink is plain old H2O. In fact, you should drink a lot of water (hydrate as they say) the day BEFORE you are scheduled to speak.
Doing this will moisten up your vocal chords, not to mention your entire body (which is always a good idea anyway.) Then during your speech have a cup of room-temperature water beside you on the lectern, and sip it every now and then.
Another big no-no is to keep away from soda and other carbonated drinks right before your presentation. If you want to protect your voice, remember to stay away from carbonation, especially if you do NOT want to belch or slightly burp on stage. Imagine the embarrassment when you belch out a word or two in the middle of your talk!
If water is just not your thing, try drinking something naturally sweet, like orange juice or grapefruit juice. They are astringents and can help clear any congestion from your vocal chords. Again, doing this will enable you to NOT have to clear your throat after every other sentence!
Coddle Your Voice Like a Baby!
Just as you wouldn’t send your small child out into the cold without a sweater and scarf, do the same for your speaking voice.
Protect your voice by wrapping a winter scarf around your neck in winter. Wear turtleneck sweaters and shirts (in season, of course). Wisely, do what you have to do to keep yourself and your voice warm and cozy.
Don’t go too far by wrapping a woolen scarf around your neck in mid-July. Oh, sure, other speakers might know you are protecting your voice. BUT some folks might think you’re a nut job and could possibly alert the authorities. (And no, that never happened to me!)
There’s More You Can Do
Does the word “strain” conjure up feelings of pain or tension? Well, your voice thinks it does! Common sense dictates to always use a microphone when you are speaking to an audience. Certainly if you are in an intimate setting, say less than fifty people, then you might not want to. But only do that if you can project your voice properly to your listeners without hurting it.
Along with being trained as an actor, I also trained earlier in my life as a singer. And because I was, I always want to keep my voice limber by singing scales and doing certain vocal exercises.
If I am on the road (and I usually am when giving a presentation), I do my scales in my hotel room (preferably in the shower). My public speaking program has certain voice exercises for you to use that can help give your voice more timbre, vocal range, and flexibility.
Remember: Just like an athlete stretches his arms and leg quads for flexibility, so must a speaker get his voice flexible to get the job done!
Be prudent: If there’s a break during the day’s schedule before you have to speak, protect your voice by taking that time to be alone.
Do your best to NOT speak to anyone. Explain to your host or client that you’re not being antisocial; you’re just saving your voice for the time you’re scheduled to speak. (They’ll hopefully understand and drift away for you to be alone!)
Again, it’s worth repeating: Before your begin your speech, find a quiet area (preferably your hotel bathroom) and warm up your voice. Do this just as you would warm up your muscles before you go for a jog or whatever type of exercise you enjoy doing.
Don’t worry if a few people can hear you doing those odd vocal exercises to continually protect your very important asset: your voice!