Video calls are still popular for work meetings and training in these COVID normal times. But after a year of them, a new malaise has emerged – ‘Zoom fatigue’: a feeling of exhaustion after a video call or conference.
For your brain, video calls require more focus, especially in processing the facial expressions of people on screen. For your voice, long hours talking via video can cause vocal strain, sore throat, and in some cases, ‘Zoom laryngitis’.
One of my singing students, Harry Mann, uses Zoom a lot in his corporate career. He started getting sore throats and his voice would feel ‘stuck’ in his throat.
“I noticed my voice would be frequently worn out. This had occasionally happened in the past, maybe after a long night out in a loud bar, but now I started to experience it regularly. My voice would be croaky, making it difficult to speak. I started realising this was most common after a long day of Zoom calls,” he says.
Harry wondered if wearing headphones made him lower his natural speaking range. I’ve found speaking with headphones on may encourage an overuse of your low speaking range. Done habitually, this is a problem because voices like to use their entire range.
Unable to remedy his problem, Harry asked me for some easy voice exercises to do on the go. I found some speech exercises from when I had studied with renowned UK speech therapist, Christina Sewell. Harry has been doing these exercises for a few weeks, in between meetings or whenever his voice gets tired. His speaking voice has improved considerably, so I want to share them with you here. But first, some of my quick tips for a Zoom-ready voice:
Exercises for your speaking voice
1. Chewing. Helps open and loosen the jaw. Chew for 30 seconds. Rest. Chew for 30 seconds. Rest. Chew for 30 seconds. For this, making big, open-mouthed chewing movements is best, not polite chews!
– Chew while speaking
– Chew without voice
– When resting, slide your fingers down your cheeks to open your jaw.
2. Yawning. Make as big a sound as you can while yawning. Be uninhibited and imagine you are a sound effect. Go up and down your range
3. Tap your face firmly all over (except your eyes). This increases your awareness of the vibrations of sound in your face.
4. Lions (best done in privacy!)
Stretch your tongue out from its root and turn the tip under so it touches your chin.
– silently at first
– then, use a big hollow voice and say a nursery rhyme
**Once the above exercises start working, try these below**
5. Talk with an overwide jaw. Just talk about what you did today, for 2-3 minutes. Then come back to normal. Here’s a script: “I had breakfast early. Then went for a long walk. On the way back, I met a neighbour and had a brief chat about the local area.”
6. Pull your tongue back in your mouth and say these:
Then bring your tongue forward and say the above.
7. Finish with speaking down your range on “Oh dear”. Use a big voice with lip rounding, free jaw, forward tongue and clear resonance.
Oh dear …”
Doing these exercises regularly, Harry says his voice has not been worn out or sore since. “I noticed they have a soothing effect. They have helped me understand what I was doing that might have caused the strain and how to avoid it. I now often notice others speaking in the same unhealthy ways I was on Zoom.”
Harry says the tongue and chewing exercises are especially helpful. “I can quickly find the ‘middle’ and immediately speak more freely. I also often use the ‘chewing’ exercise for a stretch. It helps me avoid speaking in a way that is too low or tense when I’m using headphones with a mic.”
I hope these exercises help you explore a more efficient, healthier use of your voice. When your voice becomes acoustically inefficient, raspy or underpowered, listeners can focus on your sound, rather than your words. If you want action to happen, your voice needs to deliver your message with clarity – especially online.
When you work with a voice coach or singing teacher, they will observe how your voice functions and help you learn to use it better – in speech and in song.
Try an introductory singing lesson with Kathleen Connell. To find out more, Get in touch.