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VIEWPOINT: SPEAKING SICKNESS When you are too sick to speak

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Imagine owning a musical instrument valued at $4,5 million – would you not treat this with care? As a speaker, your vocal box and credibility should be cared for just as much. If you are too sick to speak, your best option would be either to postpone the talk or find a replacement. But what if the event cannot be postponed and you are the preferred speaker?

  • Vocal laryngitis: The best is vocal rest up until the time of your talk. Explain to the audience that you are recovering from this illness and deliver your speech with the microphone turned up. Your audience will appreciate that you honoured your commitment.
  • Look after your voice and avoid the following: Smoking and second-hand smoke; yelling and screaming; whispering (it rubs the vocal folds together); clearing your throat (it irritates the vocal folds); talking on airplanes (it increases the chances of breathing in germy air); alcohol, caffeine and soda (these dehydrate your vocal cords); and ice cubes in water during your speech (these constrict your vocal cords).
  • Consider trying these tried and tested remedies: Drinking warm water (it soothes the throat); making a strong tea with fresh ginger and honey; always stay hydrated with water and caffeine-free tea; keep your vocal cords lubricated with a soothing lozenge; and have a good meal to keep your energy levels high.
  • Adapt your talk: Incorporate more videos, group discussions and games that limit the time you speak.
  • Focus on your message: At times when you are sick and still need to speak, it is easy to go into a ‘victim mentality’ where you start pitying your state of affairs and try to elicit more sympathy from others, including your audience. This state will only serve to make you feel worse! Never apologise to the audience for being ill. Instead, remember why you were chosen to speak. Focus on that unique message that you have to share. Your message and the change it could have on your audience has to be bigger than how you feel on the day. Focus your energy on delivering that talk.
  • After your talk: Limit your physical contact with other people (your immune system is weak); keep the Q&A session short; visit your doctor and go home and rest – you deserved it!

Author: Dineshrie Pillay CA(SA) is a business owner and public speaker trainer