Voice problems: how do you prevent them?

As a lecturer, you depend on your voice. However, there are many lecturers who suffer from voice problems. With these education tips you will be on your way to becoming The Voice of the UGent. 

Pay attention to your body posture 

Be sure to stand in front of the classroom, in the middle, and face the audience when you speak.   

Relax your neck while speaking 

Stress often leads to strained shoulders and neck problems. Teachers with voice problems often speak with a stretched neck and forward-leaning face. As a result, the neck muscles tense up and the vocal cords can no longer vibrate. With this posture, you need to put more pressure on the vocal cords to achieve the desired voice volume. What is the result? Fatigue, elevated intonation or a breaking voice. Therefore, adopt a balanced, relaxed body posture: stand firmly on both, slightly parted legs, loosen your shoulders while speaking and look straight ahead instead of slightly up. 

Drink plenty of water and avoid coffee 

It is important to keep the mucous membranes of your vocal cords moist. While speaking, you breathe through the mouth, so the mucous membranes dry out quicker than usual. Coffee promotes that drying out even more. Therefore, drink a lot of water during your lectures. 

Warm up your voice 

Before the lecture, warm up your voice with these exercises: 

  • Take a good sitting position. This means: straight back and both feet on the ground. Take a few deep breaths. Make sure you apply abdominal breathing: when you inhale, the diaphragm goes down and presses on the gut, resulting in an arching of the abdominal wall. At rest, this way of breathing happens spontaneously. 
  • Do some breathing exercises. Alternate the following sounds: fffff, ssss, vvvvv and zzzzz. Do this calmly with sufficient control and tremor. 
  • Do some resonance exercises. Put your lips softly together without tensing them. Keep your tongue against the floor of your mouth. Resonate on the following sounds: m, n and ng

Use a voice amplifier 

Especially in large auditoria, it is not possible to speak without a microphone (hand microphone or headset) without forcing your voice. Make use of the resources provided by the UGent. Extra tip: provide an extra pair of batteries for the microphone or find out in advance where you can get spare batteries when those of the microphone are flat. 

Give your voice a rest during your lecture 

Give your voice an occasional rest during the lecture by: 

  • Giving the students a break. 
  • Asking a question and letting the students write down the answer first. It does not only give your voice a rest, but it is also an excellent way to activate the students. 
  • Asking a question and letting the students discuss the answer with their neighbour. That way, students are also less afraid to answer, because the answer comes 'from the group'. 
  • Recording short demonstrations in advance and playing them back in the auditorium. 

Speak calmly

Speak at a calm pace. Breathe slowly and include pauses in your sentences. 

Don't talk over noise 

When students are noisy, you often tend to speak louder. That is not very effective and puts pressure on your voice. It is better to keep quiet for a while until you draw your students’ attention again. Speaking more softly rather than louder will also ensure that your students stop talking. However, do not whisper, because that is very harmful to the voice. 

Articulate clearly 

Make sure you articulate well. Lecturers sometimes increase the volume of their voice to compensate for mumbling. Adjust the loudness and pitch of your voice. Move your mouth well while speaking. Vary your voice by putting stress on words and using pauses rather than speaking louder or softer. 

Last modified Jan. 13, 2021, 11:03 a.m.