Sound Advice: Three Ways To Ensure Your Voice Doesn't Fail You Onstage
Frog in your throat? Cat got your tongue? Regardless of the animal you want to put the blame on, having a moment where your voice fails you onstage can be a nightmare to many. It can happen to anyone- but only a polished and rehearsed speaker can recover! Here's your chance to know better and do better next time you find yourself struggling to get words out, nail that difficult pronunciation and give your voice a chance to convey depth, meaning and impact.
1. Avoid eating or drinking beforehand
Just like you wouldn't eat a big meal right before exercising, you don't want to be chowing down right before you get on stage. Having a balanced meal a few hours before a presentation will line your stomach, help settle nerves and regulate blood sugar- but it can wreck havoc on your voice and throat. Dairy products in particular can line your throat with mucus, making it harder to sound concise and clear. Nuts on the other hand can get stuck in teeth even after you've brushed, and move around while you’re talking, or worse, tickle your throat. The other foods to look out for are citrus fruits that dry your mouth, while foods high in salt can also do the same.
2. Practice the Rainbow Passage
This is a technique that is used by speech therapists around the world to cover all the sounds used in the English language. But it includes some fun things that many other reading passages don’t, like the syllabic m in ‘prism’ and the syllabic l in 'Aristotle’. It's helpful to read through the Rainbow Passage as a warm up prior to getting on stage or once a week, in order to see where your tongue needs to hit to produce certain sounds or amount of air you need to amplify syllables.
“When the sunlight strikes raindrops in the air, they act as a prism and form a rainbow. The rainbow is a division of white light into many beautiful colors. These take the shape of a long round arch, with its path high above, and its two ends apparently beyond the horizon. There is, according to legend, a boiling pot of gold at one end. People look, but no one ever finds it. When a man looks for something beyond his reach, his friends say he is looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Throughout the centuries people have explained the rainbow in various ways. Some have accepted it as a miracle without physical explanation. To the Hebrews it was a token that there would be no more universal floods. The Greeks used to imagine that it was a sign from the gods to foretell war or heavy rain. The Norsemen considered the rainbow as a bridge over which the gods passed from earth to their home in the sky. Others have tried to explain the phenomenon physically. Aristotle thought that the rainbow was caused by reflection of the sun’s rays by the rain. Since then physicists have found that it is not reflection, but refraction by the raindrops, which causes the rainbows.
Many complicated ideas about the rainbow have been formed. The difference in the rainbow depends considerably upon the size of the drops, and the width of the colored band increases as the size of the drops increases. The actual primary rainbow observed is said to be the effect of super-imposition of a number of bows. If the red of the second bow falls upon the green of the first, the result is to give a bow with an abnormally wide yellow band, since red and green light when mixed form yellow. This is a very common type of bow, one showing mainly red and yellow, with little or no green or blue.”
3. Practice your phonetics
You don't want to be tripping over important names or titles of people when you're up on stage, so the best way to give your mind a step by step guide to getting through it is to rehearse beforehand and write out phonetically.
Studying the way a word sounds not only helps with your ability to communicate accurately; it also helps you remember the words because it ties the words to muscle memory. As your mouth moves to sound out a word, your muscles are learning those words as much as your brain is learning the word. Writing down words over and over again you increase your ability to remember the word, and lastly, constantly rereading the word helps you concentrate on pronunciation. A few websites to help you nail that pronunciation include Howjsay.com, Forvo.com and Dictionary.com.