Singers and talkers spend two kinds of time in public; formal events, performances, or presentations, where you are allowed to be the main voice user, and less formal events, where everyone talks at once. Whether you’re in a band, in a theater production, or giving a STOTalk, your official “show” is typically less of a vocal problem than the social hours that surround it.
Onstage or at a speaker’s podium, you present something you’ve practiced. You’re probably amplified; your listeners are not. The background noise level is somewhat predictable, somewhat in your control. You’re conscious of your role as performer – you’ve practiced for it – and other people recognize their role as listeners.
As soon as you get offstage, those subtle protections are gone. As you meet and greet, you’re improvising over multiple conversations in uncontrolled background noise with lots of demands on your attention. If refreshments are served or alcohol is involved, the people around you get even louder, friendlier, and less able to respect your need to protect your voice for the performances or rehearsal commitments yet to come.
In these “meet and greet” situations, I think that people really want your attention and approval, more than they want to hear you talk. People want to share in your moment, to feel warmed by your spotlight. They may praise your work, pitch new projects, and ask follow-up questions. Underneath all of those interactions, their unconscious goal is to rebalance the power relationship created when you were onstage and they were in the audience.
The best way to protect your voice when interacting with others is to relax and let them be. Whether you’re exhausted, keyed up, or somewhere in between, you can greet people enthusiastically, beam energy back at them, and still not overuse your vocal cords. Smile a lot, ask questions, and let everyone else talk.