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Rachel Coffey

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Tips for speaking with a cold

By Rachel Coffey, Oct 5 2017 08:54AM

Theresa May Coughing through speech (mirror.co.uk)
Theresa May Coughing through speech (mirror.co.uk)

Got a cold but have to give an important speech? Theresa May had somewhat of a public speaking nightmare yesterday, but she won’t be the only one who is struggling with the sniffles. Interestingly she coped relatively well with the comedian’s stunt, what was lacking was the physical and mental prep required in in such a demanding situation when she had a cold. Here are some speaking tips if you are feeling under the weather;


Don’t just take every medication going in the hope that something will work! If you have a dry cough or throat (as May seemed to) the last thing you want are medications that dry your throat further. Your throat needs to be lubricated in order to work, otherwise you get the same effect as trying to run and engine without oil- choking. Anything that clears mucus, including eucalyptus based products will strip away moisture. Instead, steaming with hot water for 5 minutes whilst breathing deeply and expelling any by products will both clear mucus and lubricate your throat. Then suck a sweet before you go on, which will encourage salvia and further lubricate your vocal chords. Remember to spit it out before you speak!


If your throat is swollen, look toward things that bring down inflammation, again, steaming will help, there are also some good sprays around. The key is to rest your throat. The day and night before speak as little as you can and get and early night if possible. On the morning of your speech, warm your Voice up gently. Begin by softly humming. Direct the humming sound toward your eyes, nose, mouth and chest, to wake up your resonators. Then, still humming with your lips together, siren, like a police car. The rise and fall in pitch will stretch your larynx, getting it ready for action and lessening the chance of sounding monotone.


If you are bunged up spend longer on the humming and siren mentioned above and spend extra time gently moving the sound between your nose and chest on a gentle comfortable hum. The vibration in the hum will lessen tension and start to dislodge the nasties blocking up your nose, helping you sound less like a 1980’s tunes advert, instead increasing volume and clarity.

It can be easy to add physical tension to the mix if we are feeling overly stressed. Your voice works best when your body is relaxed. So stretch out and relax those shoulders, lengthen your back, centre your weight and stand tall.


Finally it is crucially important to feel confident and breathe with a low relaxed breath. Focus on some positive relaxing thoughts, put your hand on your lower stomach and breathe naturally. Make sure that the way you are thinking about your speech is positive and instead of thinking about things that might go wrong, concentrate on solutions and imagine how you might solve the problems instead. If you’ve had a tough time recently, it might be worth seeing a coach to boost your confidence as a lack of confidence can have a dramatic impact on our voice.


These are just some of the ways you can help yourself to be more prepared. Always have a tepid glass of water with you (cold water will shock your throat and may aggravate a cough), keep your speech as succinct as it can be and breathe. And after all, if you get stuck you could always get your mates in the audience to start a standing ovation ... or then again you could just pause, clear your throat away from the microphone, breathe deep, look confident and carry on.

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