Sep 12 2016

The Aging Voice: Thicker middle, thinner voice

Published by under Vocal Health

iStock_000009328198XSmallIf you are over 50, you may have noticed your voice growing weaker, or phlegmier, or sounding more tired than it used to. Sorry to say, but the process that makes your knees sag also makes your vocal folds get thinner and lose strength and tone. Without sufficient bulk, the cords’ opposing tissues can’t meet in the middle to produce the vibrations that cause sound. Yes, it’s not fair that you get a thicker waistline, where you don’t need the bulk, and thinner muscle where you do! Although there is no fountain of youth, the search for the voice you used to have doesn’t have to end in frustration.  According to laryngologists, older voices can be revived with the proper care, exercise, treatment for acid reflux, and even collagen injections to plump the folds and close the gap. Note: you have to get collagen injected into the vocal folds; the improvement doesn’t come from just getting rid of frown lines.

* Stay hydrated. It seems that we need more water as we age because our bodies have lower water reserves.  Dehydration contributes to phlegm in the throat. Besides,  water is good for your heart! Drink water! Consider using steam and be sure to avoid things like cough drops and other lozenges with eucalyptus that can be drying. Consider glycerin based lozenges like Lakerol or Black Currant Pastilles.

* Keep your body strong and healthy. Your body is your voice; improved circulation, respiration and stamina will improve your voice, too.

* Once the vocal folds begin to lose their bulk, it’s less likely that you will damage your voice by being too aggressive with your voice (i.e. over-singing, yelling, or belting.) In fact, louder, stronger vocal exercises can improve the strength of an aging voice. Try some nice loud shower singing to start your day.

Just remember that you should always consult an otolaryngologist (ENT) or a Speech Language Pathologist if you are experiencing vocal weakness, and before beginning vigorous vocal practice. While age-related changes can cause voice changes, there are other vocal fold issues that must be ruled out before you begin to work on any strengthening program.

Special thanks for edits by Edie R. Hapner, PhD CCC-SLP, Professor
Tina and Rick Caruso Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery
Keck Medicine of USC
University of Southern California
USC Voice Center

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Aug 08 2016

What to do after you screw up that first impression

Published by under Executive Presence

dreamstime_s_52454650From the first moment you open your mouth to speak, people are judging you. They are deciding who you are based on what they hear– geographic origin, your gender, your education, your emotional state, etc.– which influences whether or not they can relate to what you say, even if you’re not a politician.  Those first 30 seconds are your chance to make a good impression. Conversely, you always run the risk of a first impression that creates a situation where you have to prove yourself over and over again in order to gain respect and attention.  Stuff happens.

The mic fails, technology doesn’t work, the lighting is bad, you open your mouth and nothing comes out, you can’t see your notes– all of these are real possibilities. So what do you do if something like that happens to you? You can just walk off stage after a technology problem, as did action film director Michael Bay at CES in Las Vegas, creating a more embarrassing situation.  Or you can stay up there and carry on.  Even though “you never have a second chance to make a first impression,” how you handle that moment makes or breaks your credibility and your ability to influence.

You can find some answers for dealing with the various manifestations of voice malfunctions in my series, “Who Let the Frogs Out?”  Otherwise, here are three ways to handle an opening crisis and turn it into a positive:

Surprise people. Be transparent about the situation. Make a joke about the technology. Stop and fix the slides or go on without them. One of my clients reminded the audience of how Peter Pan brought Tinkerbell back from the brink of death and had the audience clap while the lighting crew got the lights back on. Adapted from “4 Ways to Overcome a Bad First Impression,” by Dorie Clark

Get personal. If nerves caused a problem, say so. The famous jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald, was immensely insecure. Years ago, I heard her in concert and she started her set by saying “I’m a little bit nervous tonight.” Those words put both her and the audience more at ease.

Have Faith. You are the expert, which is why you are up there talking. You don’t have to know what you don’t; you can have faith in your ability to speak to what you DO know. If something goes wrong technically, let the experts handle it and you focus on your part. If you see your boss in the audience and feel insecure and stumble, recover by remembering that you don’t have to know what your boss knows; your job is to be of service to those listening by sharing what YOU know.

Finally, preparation is the key to success in performance and public speaking. The better you prepare, the more capable you are of handling the issues that may arise when all the eyes are on you. As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”

 

For more on this topic,

Please see my series on this blog, Who Let The Frogs Out?

Guest post by Gary Genard,  Want to find your voice as a speaker? You may need some tough love.

5 Ways to Unlearn Stage Fright

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