How are you standing? How do you keep from losing your voice? What is your voice saying about you? These were some of the many questions tackled in a recent faculty development workshop titled “Voice Workout,” and it may soon be available to staff.
Kimberly Mohn Hill, assistant professor in the Acting and Voice Theatre and Dance Department, led faculty members through a series of exercises to help prepare and retrain their voice before giving a lecture, a speech, or a presentation.
“The exercises give you a sense of awareness of things that conspire against you while you’re trying to find, center, and own your natural sound,” she says.
Hill demonstrated breathing and stretching moves to release tension that can build in the neck, shoulders, and back, thus affecting how you sound. Faculty followed along as Hill showed another technique that relaxes the tension in their jaw, which is crucial in how you articulate. She also had faculty become more aware of their own posture, which supports the voice by supporting the muscles needed to carry and deliver the sounds.
Then, the strange noises began filling the room. Each faculty member hummed, ahed, and buzzed, as Hill instructed them to do. The sounds, exaggerated facial expressions, and moves are the various ways to warm up the muscles in your face and body before speaking, she explained.
Hill’s point is that everyone should warm up before speaking, even if it’s in a classroom or a boardroom. She says once you open your mouth, you’ll reveal something about yourself that you can’t necessarily control, such as regionalism. However, she says you can control how people perceive you, such as having confidence or authority.
“The most common mistake people make when they’re speaking can be found in their pacing. It comes from how you feel about yourself, what you’re saying, and being up in front of people. So, if you’re not comfortable, you tend to speed through your presentation or lecture,” says Hill. “Another common problem I see, especially in new faculty, is volume. They may not be familiar with the acoustics of the room or a microphone.” Thus, faculty may not know they’re talking loud enough or the opposite—that they’re too loud and overmodulated.
The University’s Human Resources department is working with Hill to make the workshop available for staff in the near future.