7 Ways to harness your voice

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

It’s not what you say but how you say it.  When it comes to saying something important it’s the way we say it that has the impact rather than what we actually say.

In an article in Woman & Home magazine, vocal coach and professor and researcher of voice and brain science, Jessica Doyle, offered seven ways we can harness our voices with confidence, whether doing a formal presentation or just trying to get your friends or family to listen.

  1. Warm up the vocal chords – your voice is created by skeletal muscle, the same sort that you work out at the gym with, so for peak performance it needs a warm up.  Humming through a straw for two or three minutes, from the bottom to the top of your vocal range and back, or undulating through the range is a good way to deal with ‘morning voice’ croaks or if you’re not feeling too great.
  2. Sort your posture – how you stand or sit affects the sound of your voice, so does your head being too far back or too far forward, it can give it an abrasive quality.  Sitting too long, carrying heavy bags or walking in heels changes your body’s alignment and centre of gravity.  From standing, hang like a ragdoll.  As you roll back up slowly inhale, then exhale again when you bend forward again.  Whilst standing check you head is balanced on top of the spine with shoulders down and centred under your ears, rather than rounded or overextended backwards.
  3. Use breathing techniques – breath can relax your body and energise your voice.  Lack of breath control can make it sound like you’re gasping for air when you speak. Expanding the chest, abdomen and pelvic floor using deep breaths and thinking of your body filling up with air can help.
  4. Self-care – getting the right amount of sleep, staying hydrated and eating a balanced diet all ensure your brain, body and voice are ready to do their best.  It takes four hours for the water you drink to hydrate your voice.  A dehydrated voice sounds scratchy and tires more quickly. 
  5. Prepare – not for what will happen, but what might happen.  Recreate scenarios, practise in front of a mirror, have people interrupt you with a question, or answer a phone call.  When you’re prepared for interruptions they are less likely to throw you off.
  6. Focus – the reality is that we’re not designed for multi-tasking.  Trying to focus on several things at once stops the brain from performing its best, making it even harder to achieve the task in hand.  Be present.  Dedicate 10 to 15 minutes of present practice each day in the lead up to your event or conversation.
  7. Positive affirmation – thoughts are extremely powerful and your brain can be tricked into thinking they are real.  Write down a sentence highlighting your strongest fears about speaking in public, then flip it to way you love speaking in public.  Write it down two or three times and put it up where you’ll see it regularly.  Read your sentence aloud last thing at night and first thing in the morning.  When you have negative thoughts, shut them down by repeating your sentence slowly and firmly.

I do quite a lot of public speaking, whether presenting or chairing meetings both at work and #bellringing.  I’ve given quite lengthy talks too.  I’m usually very ok with the confidence of delivering a presentation that I have prepared, so know what I intend to say and the messages I want to get across, and I’m ok at dealing with interrupts and questions.  However, what I find most annoying is that after about 20 minutes my throat dries up and I start coughing.  I always make sure I have a glass of water handy.  When I start coughing it can make my nose run too, so it looks like I’m snivelling as well. 

As we start to consider a national recruitment campaign for #bellringing I dare say I’ll be doing a lot more talking.  I think the things I need to be aware of, given the suggestions above is to drink plenty of water before the event to allow time for my voice to be well hydrated and to do some warm up exercises beforehand. 

What are your top tips for not croaking during something important?


One thought on “7 Ways to harness your voice

  1. I have no experience or intention of speaking in public. But I think you’re right, you have no problems speaking but maybe the idea of being well hydrated in advance might help. Good luck 👍


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