Presenting online

How to look after your voice

Are you struggling after months and months of online Zoom and Team meetings? Are you preparing yet more online presentations and delivering strategic plans to staff, colleagues and stakeholders? Do you get an overwhelming impulse sometimes, to just run away?!

Without the old visual feedback which comes through your audience’s attentive body language or a puzzled or interested face, it is an ongoing challenge to gauge how your presentation is going.

You may be tempted to project your voice more, yet think if you speak too loudly it will be wrong and end up with a conflict of muscle activity in your neck and larynx. This can result in antagonistic behaviour, where muscles are being held to do a job that’s not necessary, at the same time as other muscles – which are necessary – are also being pushed to perform.

The outcome of this is at best tired muscles around your larynx, jaw and voice and at worse, strained vocal folds (or vocal chords) which can make your voice sound hoarse and ‘thin’.

You can avoid a tired, strained voice and here are some tips to help you plan how to get the most out of your online presentation:

  1. Prepare thoroughly. Ensure you know your material and have it ready in a logical and accessible format.
  2. Know your audience as much as you can. What do they want to get out of your presentation? Ensure you are addressing their concerns or meeting their attendance objectives.
  3. Now to your voice.
    • Warm up your voice by breathing in, deep down into the bottom of your lungs and hum the air out, slowly, on one note. Repeat this exercise five times on different (low-ish) notes.
    • Breathe in deeply and slowly and this time hum out using your voice like a siren. The notes of your hum should gently rise and fall, like a series of gently arching bridges. Once your lungs are feeling empty, stop humming, breathe in again and repeat the exercise four more times.
    • Breathe in to the bottom of your lungs again and halfway through your humming out, allow your jaw to drop and the sound ‘aahhhhh’ to come out. No effort, no pushing, no tension in your neck or anywhere… just the air passing over your vocal folds and gently warming up your voice. Repeat this exercise four more times and relax.
  4. Begin your presentation with a smile, if appropriate. Acknowledge and welcome your audience, tell them what to expect and how long you will be speaking for.
  5. Rehearse your opening and closing sentences.

Always have a glass of water to hand and ensure you are well-hydrated before you begin to speak. Take sips of water throughout your presentation to keep your vocal folds hydrated and moving smoothly.

As you make your presentation, remember to be yourself. Be present and be engaged with what you are saying and your voice will carry the sincerity of your words.

There are many, many aspects to speaking well during an online presentation in addition to the points I have raised above, including clarity, pace and vocal variety.

Your posture is important too. Ensure you have a good, supportive chair or if you’re standing, check your posture is aligned and relaxed. If you are relaxed, your voice will be relaxed.

If you are experiencing vocal fatigue, exhaustion or just feel a bit jaded about your online presentation skills, please get in touch. So don’t run away! I can help you develop a very effective toolkit to bring out your best voice for your Zoom and Team calls.