How you say something can be as important as what you say. This is true for face-to-face instructors, but it is critical in the virtual environment.
Online instructors cannot give any visual cues as to how they feel about what they are saying; they only have their voices to hold the learners’ interest and show their confidence in their skill and knowledge, friendliness towards the learners, and enthusiasm for the content.
The human voice is made up of five separate characteristics. Although each defines a separate attribute they also work together, especially when conveying very strong feelings.
Emphasis and Meaning
Changing which words or syllables you put emphasis on, can change the meaning of your message. For example, read aloud the seven sentences below, emphasizing the underlined word – you will convey seven different messages.
How to Take Care of Your Speaking Voice
Your voice is a powerful but delicate instrument.
1. Breathe deeply and relax
- You can speak only as well as you breathe; the voice is a wind instrument so you need to supply it with ample air to power your talk
- Before getting up to speak, find a place where you can pause quietly for awhile. Do a few breathing exercises. Take deep (diaphragmatic) breaths to help your air supply and give your voice more support
- Beginning presenters and instructors often hurt their voices because they aren’t breathing deeply enough. When you breathe in, your stomach should push out. When you breathe out, your stomach should push in.
- Place your hand on your stomach when doing your breathing exercises. See if you’re bringing air all the way down to your diaphragm
- Tension in your upper body diminishes the power of your voice and can cause hoarseness; Over time, it can adversely affect your throat and in severe cases can lead to vocal cord damage.
- Through vocal-warm up exercises, you can reduce tension in your shoulders, neck and throat. As you exercise, allow your body to breathe naturally.
- Relax your body and allow whatever tautness is there to flow out each time you exhale.
2. Condition your voice
- Try gargling to ensure your voice is in the best possible condition. A teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in a cup of warm water makes a simple solution that will wash away phlegm, allergens and other irritants.
- After you gargle, coat and soothe your throat with herbal tea or decaffeinated tea with plenty of honey.
- Drink plenty of water before and during your session.
- Talking for long periods can dry out your vocal apparatus, making it more prone to damage and fatigue.
- Avoid food and beverages that impair your voice. Avoid spicy foods which can increase the production of stomach acids. Avoid caffeine which dehydrates and it’s also a diuretic which may cause other problems.
- Be aware of any medications you may be taking which can dry out your throat, such as allergy pills. If you must take your medications, it is even more important to hydrate before your session.
4. Empower your voice
- Have a good night’s sleep; you’ll have more vocal energy and will avoid sounding tired.
- Relax your cheeks and tongue so they aren’t constrained by tension. Allow them to move freely to produce a full sound, i.e., don’t mumble or speak through clenched teeth.
- Use large gestures to help emphasize a point; large gestures from your shoulders actually reduce the upper body tension and empower your voice. This works for virtual instructors too. Even if learners don’t see the gestures your voice will sound more powerful and align with your message.
Content for this blog has been taken from FKA modules in the following programs:
- Instructional Techniques
- Instructional Techniques for the Virtual Classroom
- Presentation Skills
- Advanced Facilitation Skills for Instructors
- Maximizing Adult Learning
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