Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Vocal Preparation for a Con

During the approach to GenCon Indy, I listened to a few podcast episodes that dispensed advice for the con-goer. With GenCon Indy in the rearview mirror, and Uprising straight ahead, I wanted to hand out some advice of my own.

Gaming is a vocal exercise for most of us. I've not yet met a gamer who played in sign-language, but if you do then you can probably disregard this post. For the rest of us, it's all about talking and listening. After a day or two of talking, your voice can be worn down quite a bit. Typically, the solution has been to reach for the lozenges. As Michael Franti lamented, that's the pop-a-pill culture shining through.

An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, right? So here's the prevention in a few easy steps.

Warm up your voice on your way to the con.
Singers do it. Professional trainers and presenters do it. If you've ever heard John Farnham speak, you'll be able to hear the sound of a voice that's been taken care of for a decades-long singing career. The last time I heard him, he didn't sound like a 60 year old man. You can do this with a few simple exercises. YouTube has videos to demonstrate it. Wikipedia has articles (with a bit of musical jingo) about how to do it. Get your voice ready before your start and you'll survive the hours of gaming talk, with all your silly voices and laughter and sound effects, depending on your gaming style.

Warm up your talking muscles on your way to the con.
The same people who warm up their voices often warm up their other talking muscles too. Think about the muscles in your cheeks, your lips, your jaw and your tongue. Now read any sentence aloud. Did you notice how many muscles moved in that time? You're going to use them a lot, and if you want to make sure they last the con, give them a chance to warm up. YouTube is again quite a useful for exercises like these. Here's a search on YouTube just for lip warm up. You might feel like a clown while you're doing these, but even if you have just five minutes alone (perhaps in the car, perhaps in the morning shower... wherever!) you'll have enough time to run through a few of them.

Rest your voice. I know, I know. It's a con full of geeks. Every geek wants to be the alpha geek by showing off what they know, Simpsons references, arguments about Star Wars and Star Trek, blah blah blah. You'll be talking a lot. But if you give your voice a chance to rest, it'll last longer. And by not talking, you get to listen to other gamers. They like to contribute to the game too.

Lubricate your voice on your way to the con and throughout the day. Your body has natural lubrication systems. Don't think about it too hard. But where does the body get this from? A lozenge? Not at all. Drink water. Drink plenty of water and let your body turn that water into the right stuff for your voice. And of course, after you've peed it all out, you'll need more water. This is the oil in the engine of your voice. Don't be stingy.

These are simple tips to make sure your voice lasts the con. And they don't cost you a thing, so they're cheaper than lozenges as well as more effective. Happy talking!
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