In recent weeks many of us had to change our lives and working practices. Much work has had to move online, with meetings, lessons, talks and discussions held via platforms such as Zoom or Skype. This has been a challenge for those of us who typically work with voice e.g. speakers, singers, actors, teachers, presenters. It has however also meant that many others have had to become professional online voice users. If you are using your voice online for a significant period each day, then you fall into this group. Why then is it important to recognise this?
How is it going?
Stop for a moment and think. How are you dealing with online voice use? Do you get tired more easily than normal or lack stamina? Do you feel mental fatigue by the end of the day?
These are all common things experienced by people who are new to online work, or who have suddenly increased their online load.
Look out for stress
All of the changes and uncertainties of the past weeks may well have raised your anxiety and stress levels. Your online voice can also suffer if this is the case. Don’t underestimate the impact of learning new technology, appearing and speaking on screen, battling the broadband connection, trying to communicate fully and making it all work for your business. This is so even if you are used to online meetings. Here are some ideas to help;
- Learn to breathe more slowly and deeply.
- Let go of your lower abs as you allow air in. Engage them to speak.
- Leave space between sessions. You need to clear your mind of the last person/meeting and prepare for the next. Even just five minutes is useful.
- Spend your lunchtime and breaks away from screens. Your brain needs down time. Walk outside if possible.
- Monitor your energy throughout the day and notice patterns. This way you can take action when you need to.
- Avoid trying to be perfect 🙂
Your voice and body
Online work can be intense. Your voice online (or off) will be dependent upon how your body works with it. If you are suddenly doing more online work you may find that you have to consider things a little differently than usual.
- Check your physical vocal level. You should not have to strain and speak loudly if you have the microphone and sound levels on your platform set correctly.
- Check your vocal technique. Your breath and voice use are important here. If you are unsure, do get in touch for help.
- Remember this is interactive. Leave space for the other person to speak (it overcomes the lag) and pace yourself. Let others talk for a while. Use the chat box if you need to.
- Use a good USB microphone and if you find it helpful, a headset with earphones. I personally prefer to listen to the sound from separate speakers as headphones make me feel “closed in”, but you may find that they work for you.
- Choose a good chair. Check your seated posture, upright body with legs bent at 90 degrees to the seat. Set everything at a comfortable height and have your eyes an arm’s length from the screen.
- Monitor your posture frequently, especially at the point where the head meets the neck. This should be balanced, without craning your neck or hunching your shoulders.
- If you are spending many hours using your voice online invest in a blue-light filter for your screen. Happily, my monitor has this feature built in and it makes a huge difference. This will help you to avoid eye strain and headaches.
- Move. This is vital. Get up and walk between sessions, stretch when possible.
If you are teaching voice you may be frustrated by the sound quality, even with best settings for you and your student. This may also be a problem in meetings/presentations where some sounds aren’t as clear to decipher as they are person to person. e.g. f and v, s and sh etc. Nasals can also be tricky to pick up e.g. m vs n. So what can you do to ease the load?
- Don’t expect perfect sound. Work with what you have.
- Expect to look more in order to work out what is going on. Voice teachers are used to looking, but this work may require you to do so even more. This also applies to other businesses if you are used to meeting in person.
- Send documents, recordings and ideas ahead so that your client or student gets an overview and is well prepared. If you need to listen to a voice closely for voice work, ask them to provide a recording. You can play it during the session, analyse and give feedback.
- Be creative: Use whiteboard function on your platform if it has one. Collaboration is easier with a visual focus. You can draw or use a quick diagram to take the place of many words. This will help to save your voice in the long run.
Just by thinking about your voice online you have started to move ahead with your general voice awareness. Your voice is your business after all, in so many ways. You can develop new skills during this difficult time that will help you to be more creative and confident with your voice online in the future.
I have a number of free resources that can help you. Look out for:
- Previous blogs
- Facebook lives
- Video tips on using your voice online: Facebook and Linkedin
- News of free webinar via my newsletter
or please do get in touch if you’d like a free voice strategy call to discuss how I could help you with your voice.