This upcoming Father's Day (along with last month's Mother's Day) gives us an occasion to show appreciation for the two people that have influenced our lives from day one. Some of the best--or the best--advice comes via our parents.
We should remember our parents and be grateful for them year-round, but in honor of these annual holidays, let's revisit some of their wisdom and see how it applies to public speaking:
Have good hygiene--namely, vocal hygiene.
"Dress for the job you want, not the one you have," a chorus of fathers have told us over the years, which includes exemplary hygiene. And that goes for everything, especially your voice. Speak like the influencer you want to be.
A public speaker's voice is their primary instrument. Just like any musician would keep their instrument re-strung and polished, a speaker must take care of that voice. Especially since you can't just re-string your vocal chords.
Many professionals make the mistake of not "tuning" their instrument--also known as keeping it in proper condition pre-speech. So, how do you take care of your voice and keep it in tip-top shape?
Drink water! Hydration is of the utmost importance for keeping your vocal chords pliable. Tight vocal chords constrict your voice, weakening the volume and variation your voice could achieve. That's why it's also a good idea to warm up your vocal chords regularly. You can warm up through diaphragmatic breathing, which also adds power to your speech.
But vocal hygiene isn't the only hygiene you should worry about. Focus on sleep hygiene too because...
"Go to bed. NOW."
How many times have you heard this one--or a variation--from a parent?
As a teenager, you probably ignored this command and pulled all-nighters. And as a teenager, you probably could manage the next day, even if it was terrible. But part of growing up is letting your habits mature--and realizing you aren't as durable as you once were.
But research shows just how important sleep is to an individual. Harvard's medical school lists the effects of insufficient sleep on their website--and the effects aren't good. Sleep deprivation causes a decrease in learning ability, weakening of the immune system and degradation in performance--and that includes speaking performance.
The Harvard study even asserts that sleep deprivation played a large role in the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl.
Avoid a meltdown--listen to your parents and get a full night's rest. But what if you have trouble regulating your clock? This is where sleep hygiene comes in handy.
Go to bed at the same time every night and avoid caffeine late in the day. Separate your workplace from the area you sleep and eliminate electronics--that means lights too. Your bed should be a sleep-only zone.
Who knew dad knew what he was talking about when he told you to go to bed?
Eat your vegetables.
Parents are always harping about proper nutrition for their kids. It was easy to blow off such nagging as a teenager, but as an adult, you really shouldn't.
Certain foods--we're looking at you, veggies--have been shown to increase your mental processing. Outside of vegetables, blueberries improve memory and omega-3 rich salmon improves neuron function. That means that a speaker can not only remember their speech, but recover easily from any hiccups using quick-thinking. Sounds like a win-win to us.
When your parents always urged you to "finish your broccoli," they definitely had a point. The vitamin K in broccoli has been shown to improve cognitive function which is something every speaker wants to boost. After all, a sharp thinker is a sharp speaker.
Hygiene, sleep and food--the trifecta of parental worries. Part of growing up is finally realizing our parents were on to something. You had the keys to the successful preparation for your speech all along--you just had to think back to your parents.