Preserving Your Voice

Over the summer, I received a message regarding tools and strategies the college has available for faculty that are struggling to maintain their voice after hours of lecturing. In my research I discovered that we are fortunate to have a Part-Time faculty member, Barbara Szarek, who teaches in programs in Kingston and Brockville and is also a vocal coach. Barbara was kind enough to forward some suggestions that might help you if you too are struggling with a similar issue. Her advice is as follows:

The most important thing to remember is to keep your vocal cords wet. (This means drink a lot of water during a lecture). Because we do not know why we lose our voices, this varies from person to person, here are some general suggestions, which should help to keep the vocal cords in better shape so they do not experience fatigue.

  • WATER is of extreme importance in the normal functioning of the respiratory and the vocal tract in particular. TALK WET!!!!
  • Have a proud posture of the body, avoid a floppy posture, and try to relax your neck, tongue, throat, shoulders as much as you can.
  • Inhale and imagine that you have created an “inner space” inside your body, and try to stay in this position as much as possible. When you exhale you talk to the audience.
  • If you talk, let your voice rise. Do not talk in a “low pitch” because it can create tiredness.
  • Generally, learn to project your voice without vocal tension or strain by relaxing your throat and jaw. Never clench your teeth or hold your jaw tense. Some people don’t even know that they move their jaw stiffly to speak.
  • Speak slower and EXHALE the air during your speech; don’t hold the air inside your body
  • All these things are connected with relaxation of the body and the brain. The order for relaxing vocal cords comes from your brain, so if a person is not relaxed inside, the vocal cords will respond first by showing fatigue.
  • Don’t talk in a low monotone pitch. Don’t allow your vocal energy to drop so low that the sound becomes gravelly.
  • Allow the speaking voice pitch to vary freely and expressively, speak slowly, pausing often, at natural phrase boundaries, to allow the breath to replace before you go on. Allow the breath to replace itself naturally, without raising your shoulders and upper chest, and allow natural expansion release in the lower torso, abdomen, and back during the breathing cycle.
  • We have to learn how to talk with the whole body relaxed.
  • We should avoid talking in noisy situations, so we should adjust our environment as much as possible to reduce background noise.
  • Sometimes we should use a microphone for public speaking, but WE HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO KEEP OUR VOICE RELAXED, particularly when we have lectures!
  • And finally, we need to develop a safe breathing technique and learn how to increase our volume using natural resonators.



September Start Up

Every August, in anticipation of the return to work, I begin to think about how I’ll approach the coming school year. With course outlines complete (hopefully), I can now think about how to introduce myself to a new group of students. I never find this an easy task. Often the icebreaker activities I find feel as though they would be too forced for me. Plus, I have also found in years past that students might have already completed a certain introductory activity with another faculty member prior to coming to my class. Damn.

Ultimately, what I want students to take away from day one is some sense of who I am and what the course will be like. What I want to take away from day one is who my students are, generally speaking, and hopefully a couple of students’ names. I always feel better once I can call on a couple of students by name.

As I was doing research this year in to possible ideas, I came across some good and basic advice from Dr. Bernie Krynowsky’s “A Practical Guide to Effective Teaching and Learning” for the faculty teaching at Vancouver Island University. His suggestions are straight forward and easy to follow. For example, establishing credibility. In my experience, students love to hear about faculty and what they’ve accomplished, where they’ve worked, etc. You might just be more interesting than you realize!

To read more of Krynowsky’s guide, follow this link:

On a more general note, UNC Charlotte has some great suggestions for lecturing to fit different learning styles. One or more of the strategies they suggest could also be used on day one. Check it out: