Warming the Speaking Voice

One thing most professional speakers and writers of speech communication do not mention is the care of the tool you use for public speaking – your voice.

“But I speak all day. Why warm up my voice for a speech?”

Because you are not speaking for an extended time without a real rest of your vocal cords.

A Vocal Warm-upOver the years I have listen to speakers whose voices have been “corrupted” by poor care, allergies, illness or simple bad habits. Let’s discuss some of these problems and how to ease the voice into the presentation.

A lot of the “experts” in the field want you to warm up your facial muscles as well as your vocal cords. Most of the exercises are great for relaxation and setting up a pre-speaking routine, but do  not help the speaking voice.

I tell my students that, like a singer, they need to warm up their vocal cords before setting out on a presentation, whether 5-minutes or 60-minutes in length. Like a singer, warming up your voice before a speech will help with the quality and tone of your presentation. Here are some exercises that may help you.

  1. Avoid Clearing Your Throat – I have watched many a speaker clear their throat just before they begin their presentation. Clearing one’s throat and harsh coughing are traumatic to the vocal cords and should be avoided at all costs.
  2. Stay Hydrated – There are reasons why a glass of water is placed on the lectern for the speaker. Keeping your vocal cords hydrated during the presentation is most important, especially in a longer speech. Avoid very cold or hot beverages, stay away from caffeine, carbonated beverages and alcohol.
  3. Don’t Gulp the Water – Take small sips. One tends to also gulp air with a big swig and is bound to belch during the presentation.
  4. If You Have Allergies, Try a Nose Spry Instead of an Antihistamine – Antihistamines tend to dry one’s sinuses as well as one’s throat. Nose sprays usually do not affect the throat. However, do not try to use a nose spray just before you speak because there is a good possibility that you will get some gunk running down the back of your throat and you will attempt to clear your voice. (See #1)
  5. Use Relaxation Breathing – This is an easy one and not only helps relax the vocal cord, but tends to get you ready for the speech. Take a deep breath and raise your shoulders. Now let it go while dropping your shoulders. Let the air out with a quiet “woo” sound. This will both relax the vocal cords and helps you with stage fright.
  6. Try the “B” Sound – Do this before you enter the room and start to greet people. Do the scales using the “b” sound. Repeat four or five times if practical. I usually hide in the hallway or my car before entering the room. Start in an upper register tand work your way down to the lowest note you can handle.
  7. Hum – Again, use scales here and repeat four or five times. Hold the last note as long as possible. I usually start on the upper end of my voice and work downward to the lowest note I can hit. Allow your jaw to relax make an “m” sound and feel your vocal cords vibrate. You should also feel the vibration in your lips and nose.
  8. No Screaming – This is harsh on the vocal cords and should be avoided. You can project loudly without breaking into a scream. In fact, I have my students practice “whispering loudly” so one can be heard and understood down a long hallway.
  9. Allow Your Voice to Cool Down – This is especially true after a long speech. Don’t speak for a few minutes, drink some water with lemon and smile that you are finished.

If you are still having trouble visualizing the techniques, try visiting YouTube and watch some of the exercises. You don’t have to do them all, chose one or two, but remember the more warmed up vocal cords means a better presentation.

David is an award winning freelance editor, copywriter and speaker. InkandVoice Communication provides Business and Political Communication Editing, Copywriting, Consulting and Coaching. If you have any questions or would like a free consultation, please contact us at Dave@InkandVoice.com.

About David Rosman

David is the winner of the Missouri Press Foundation's "Best Columnist" in 2013 (First Place) and 2014 (Second Place), the 2016 Harold Riback Award for excellence in writing, and the winner of the 2007 Interactive Media Award for excellence in editing.
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