Was it something I said?… Protecting your voice

Flickr: Austen Hufford
Flickr: Austen Hufford

Working in libraries often involves a lot of public speaking: inductions, tours, info skills classes, front-line desk… the list goes on. A lot of talking can take its toll on your voice. I know from experience my voice will start cracking after back-to-back tours!

In May I attended a cpd session on using (and protecting) your voice. The tips were really useful, and I have started to employ them again this week knowing my voice will come under strain this term, with so many inductions, tours, and info skills sessions.

Some of the tips and techniques I found most useful are included in this post. I hope they are useful to others who are using their voice a lot.

Warm up

  • Take deep breathes throughout the day. I’ve also heard elsewhere that swallowing before you start talking will relax your throat.
  • A fun exercise in the session was imagine a feather in your hand, hold it above your head, take a deep breathe and try to keep the feather afloat for as long as possible.

I found some useful warming up exercises here.

Protecting your voice

  • Don’t clear your throat

Instead, take a sip of water. Don’t have a glass or bottle of water with you? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!

Clearing your throat makes your vocal folds slap together, which is not good. I take a bottle of water with me to sessions and presentations, and sip every time I feel I need to clear my throat. I also try to drink a lot of water throughout the day.

  • Wear a scarf when it’s cold to keep your vocal chords warm
  • If your running a tour, it’s tempting to speak in a loud whisper. This is really bad for your vocal chords. Instead, just speak normally, but perhaps at a lower volume.

(Personally, if I was working nearby, I’d find a whisper more annoying than normal speech anyway!)

  • Project your voice, to avoid shouting. Practice speaking, gradually getting louder, but without shouting.

If you’re in a large room, the temptation is to shout to make sure those at the back can hear. Projecting is much better for your voice. If possible, use a microphone for large lectures, for example.

I’d love to hear your techniques for keeping your voice in tip top shape.

Flickr: Austen Hufford
Flickr: Austen Hufford

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