By Goke Ilesanmi
Last week, we said most speakers have complex about the way they sound. We added that voice can be naturally and professionally enhanced. We disclosed that some speakers have mastered good speaking techniques of using their voice for effects even though they do not always use the voice effectively.
We explained that experts say this can cause different types of illnesses which can prevent speakers from speaking. We said one of the biggest problems for professional speakers is Ilaryngopharyngeal reflux, an inflammation near the back part of the larynx due to acid.
We concluded that experts advised that before we go to sleep, we should not take anything that has mint because mint relaxes the lower oesophagus and allows acid to come up.
Keeping the voice healthy
To keep the voice healthy, Renee Grant Williams, author of “Voice Power (AMA-COM)” recommends intake of eight glasses of water a day, avoiding dairy products and eating a balance of protein and carbohydrates. She also recommends practising “safe speaking” by using disposable hand sanitisers to clean off telephone mouthpieces.
Your voice is a precision instrument that needs to be assessed regularly. If there is a change in your voice for two consecutive weeks or you experience excessive coughing, experts suggest you see an otolaryn-gologist who specialises in throats. According to Diane DiResta, author of “Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz”, when surgery will not solve the problem and you have weakness in the cords or there is a pathology, then you need a speech pathologist.
Dr. Thomas Murry, the Clinical Director, Professor of Speech Pathology in Otolaryngology at the Voice and Swallowing Centre of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Centre, Columbia University says, “Nobody should see a speech pathologist unless they’ve had a good strobo-scopic examination.” A video chip flexible stroboscope is a new technology used to examine the vocal cords. It takes pictures and slows down the motion of the vocal cords for better viewing and diagnosis.
To prepare for your presentation, you use your intellectual muscles. To maintain your physical health, you exercise your body’s muscles. To prepare to speak, you need to prepare your voice. “The most important thing to know is that just like the legs and arms of a football player, the vocal folds are muscles that can get weak, injured and tired,” discloses Murry.
Jeanette Lovetri, one of the world’s top specialists in training professional singers and founder of the Voice Workshop and Somatic Voicework says, “The more vocal fitness, the more the voice stands up to stress.” The goal of working with a voice trainer is to get the instrument to have more efficient responses. Just as runners have physical trainers, speakers need voice coaches.
Murry recommends practising these three P’s: Posture, Placement and Pitch. Posture: Hips over the legs, shoulders down, jaw relaxed, tongue forward.
Placement: Your voice is coming out of the bell of your head and not from a little tube in the throat. Imagine the sound coming out of the end of a French horn and not out of the tubes of the horn. Pitch: Experiment with different pitches to see which one brings out the best “ring” or resonance once you have the proper posture and placement.
Once you know where your speaking voice is, you can calibrate your voice with these five-minute warm-up exercises: (1) Breathing down low in the chest; (2) humming to match to the best quality possible; (3) lip trills; (4) tongue trills; (5) syllable drills (puh tuh kuh/ buh duhguh) to warm up tongue/jaw motion.
For training the speaking voice, Lovetri recommends singing. In her words, “Professional singing is two to five times more demanding than professional speaking. It’s a very effective tool to shorten the amount of time it takes to develop the voice. Be sure that the instructor is working from a physiologic place and not just from a musical place. The key to vocal fitness is good breathing and relaxed but dynamic use of body parts. Most people don’t breathe adequately. To project your voice, torque up your breath.”
Twila Thompson, director of The Actors Institute in New York, agrees thus: “The voice is created in the breathing, not in your throat.” Practise breathing into the belly, pushing it out like a balloon, holding it for five to 10 seconds, then letting air go out with a sound for five to 10 seconds.”
Another method she (Thompson) recommends for maximising the voice on stage is connecting with the audience and having an intention to reach them with every word you say. Thompson advises, “What is your intention in giving the talk? Should they think differently, challenge something? Having that intention is more than 50 percent of the issue.”
Len Cariou, actor, singer and Broadway star of Sweeny Todd, shares how he maximises his voice by exercising the lower extremities. He says, “By contracting the legs and buttocks, it focuses the tension in the lower body and frees the speaker to sustain the voice and speak freely.”
Cariou says preparing the voice is also about articulation. “You should think of the sound of your voice as inhaling the words and letting them reflect in the space behind you. Vowels shape the voice. You inhale the sounds rather than projecting them. Good diction allows one to speak at any level of volume and be understood.”
Susan Berkley, a veteran voice coach says you do not have to sound like James Earl Jones to have vocal impact. What is important is vocal transparency. In her words, “The voiceover artists who make millions of dollars pitching products on television and radio do not necessarily do so because of the quality of their voice, but because they know how to take the voice they have to enhance the message of the copy writer. I call this quality ‘vocal transparency.'”
She explains that to have vocal transparency, you must first have the best possible instrument you can, so there are no “sticking points” when people listen. Then, take the focus off yourself and place it squarely on the most important part of all: your message and your affectionate contact with the audience. Making a difference in the lives of your audience is done with your voice. With proper breathing, voice training and vocal hygiene, your voice will be strong, healthy and you will master true vocal power.
PS: For those making inquiries about our Public Speaking, Business Presentation and Professional Writing Skills programme, please visit the website indicated on this page for details.
GOKE ILESANMI (FIIM, FIMC, CMC), CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker, Career Mgt Coach and Certified Mgt Consultant. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.
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