Protect your public speaking voice

I recently had a client who was training to deliver presentations to a number of divisions across Toronto and the GTA over a period of several days. The steady grind was taking a toll on his vocal chords and he asked what he could do to lubricate them.

Lots of dry throat remedies

Lubricating vocal chords just doesn’t come up very often very often in public speaking training, so of course, I did what everybody does these days: I Googled it. As always, there were lots of different opinions, and dry throat remedies, including a few that surprised me. And of course we have to take just about anything we read on the internet with a grain of salt until we’ve tried it ourselves or checked it out with someone we trust.

An interesting gargle

Speaking of salt, Dr. Van Lawrence, laryngologist for the Houston Grand Opera recommended the following gargle recipe: 1/2 tsp. of salt, 1/2 tsp. of baking soda, 1/2 tsp. of clear corn syrup, and 6 oz. of warmed, distilled water. He suggested that you gargle silently for two minutes, that you avoid rinsing and repeat this gargle as often as you need to. He also recommended drinking two quarts of water each day.

Saliva stimulators

But blues singer Isabella Snow has her own dry throat remedies. She says that water is only effective for a moment or two after drinking it, that nothing lubricates a throat better than saliva and nothing stimulates saliva production better than a sip of pineapple juice. If that’s not readily available, a bit of strawberry juice wins second prize, followed by honey and olives. The worst things you can drink, she says, are water, tea and beer. I’d add coffee to that list as well. You can learn more – and hear some of her blues styling here. If you listen to the clip at that link you’ll understand why she should know a thing or two about voice lubrication.

Last resort: water

In spite of what Snow says about water, if it’s the only lubricant you can easily turn to, I’d use it. I tried her pineapple juice alternative last week and it worked for me. But I don’t always have access to pineapple juice so my second choice would be water, consumed in small sips – just enough to lubricate my larynx, but not enough to bring on the need for a bio break in the middle of my presentation.

Probably the best approach is to experiment a bit to see what works best for you. You can buy expensive voice lubricants but if something as simple and inexpensive as pineapple juice, strawberry juice, baking soda and salt will work just as well or better, why not give them a try?

Vocal chords are delicate

One last suggestion: give your voice and your body plenty of rest. Remember that the vocal chords are just a set of muscles. But because they’re very delicate, they need proper care. And like any muscles, they can become strained. So if you’re doing your presentations over long distances that require traveling in dry atmospheres such as a commercial jet or train coach, be sure to keep your throat moist.

None for the road

Avoid excessive alcohol or coffee consumption and social situations like loud night clubs or sporting events where you may be tempted to strain your voice. And make sure you get plenty of rest. Rested vocal chords will perform better and longer than strained ones. And you’ll present your material with greater enthusiasm overall.

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About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

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