Get performance ready with this simple warm-up routine.
You wouldn’t launch into an intensive work-out session at the gym without doing a gentle warm up first, would you? We all know that if we don’t warm up our body before we use it, we are likely to injure ourselves. So why don’t we do warm-ups before speaking in public? Sure, speaking isn’t as intensive on the body as a 5K race, but still, we shouldn’t go in “cold”. After all, when we present we use both our voice and our whole body.
I learned the importance of warming up my voice when I was at high school, singing in different choirs and performing on the stage. The warm-up sessions at the beginning of each rehearsal were taken very seriously and lasted about 20 minutes. I was fortunate at the time to have great vocal tutors, who taught me techniques and exercises that have kept me in good stead throughout the years. Even today, I apply many of these techniques in the warm-up sequence I do before I present.
This sequence only takes 5-10 minutes, doesn’t require any material and as a bonus, gives me a few moments alone to ensure I’m focused on my upcoming presentation.
The BODY comes first
I always start with my body. You need to remember that when you speak in public, you perform. To present effectively, you engage your whole body(at least you should). So you need to warm up your body to get it performance ready.
First, I shake out all the tension (which I sometimes don’t even realise I’ve been carrying around). My favourite move is to flop down from the hip. I let my head and arms dangle, and freely and gently rock side to side.
I also stretch up on my tippy toes and reach high into the air. This engages my entire body.
I roll my shoulders to open my chest and ensure that I’m able to stand tall and proud.
Focus on your BREATH
This is really a sub-section of Body, but it’s so crucial that I’ve given it a separate heading. Without deep and controlled breathing, the best speeches fall flat. Good, prepared breath brings life to a presentation. Good breathing enables you to project your voice and give power to your voice. When you can control your breath, you are also better able to regulate your voice when your speech calls for a softer or quieter tone. As a bonus, deep, controlled breathing helps to keep those nerves in check.
To engage my breath I start by standing comfortably and solidly, with my legs hip-width apart. Then I put my hand on my diaphragm (the part of the body just under the ribcage). Having my hand there helps to remind me to breathe deeply, rather than up in my chest. This also draws my attention to the space available to be filled. I take a few deep breaths and ensure that I breathe out completely – expelling out all of the air from my lungs.
Then I practice 4×4 breathing, which I find really helps to slow down my heart rate and help me feel calm and peaceful. The 4×4 breathing is simple: Breathe in through your nose to the count of 4. Hold the breather for 4. Breathe out through your mouth to the count of 4 and hold for another count of 4. Repeat this 4 times.
Engage your VOICE
Your voice is particularly key to your performance. You need to treat it with respect and look after it. I want to bring as much colour into my voice as possible when I speak. I find that when I do, the audience becomes more engaged in what I say, and my message then has more impact.
Your active articulators (your tongue and lips) need to be ready for action when you speak. They turn your breath and sound into words. You should warm up your articulators to enunciate better and get your words out clearly.
I begin my giving myself a little facial massage – loosening my jaw and cheek bones with my hands and making chewing motions to wake up my lips and mouth.
Next, I blow raspberries to release all the tension in my lips and the muscles around my mouth. I often add a hum as I do so, to start massaging my vocal chords.
To further wake up the articulators, I run through a few tongue-twisters, where I aim to spit out the consonants. One of my favourites is “The Tip of the Tongue, the Lips, the Teeth”. Repeating this and gradually getting the words out faster, really gets your articulators presentation-ready.
In order for your voice to produce sound, your vocal chords need to be engaged:
I round off my warm up with a bit of singing. It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing. The point is to warm up the vocal chords to get your voice ready to speak.
I start with sirens, which allow me to explore my range. I start low in my register, on an “oo” or “ee” and slide my way up to my higher register and then back down. I try to concentrate on my breathing as I do so to ensure good control.
Then I usually finish by singing a song which makes me feel good or in the mood of my presentation. It doesn’t matter what it is. The point is to use your voice, connect your voice with your emotions, and get ready to perform.
Presenting is an art form. When you present you are performing.
Warming up your body, breathing deeply and preparing your voice are critical to the success of your performance. By taking a few minutes to prepare each of these elements, you will find that you’re more present and ready to give your all to your speaking engagement.