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Warming Up

    Male speaker at lectern in empty auditorium testing microphone and warming up to deliver printed speech

    Good speakers often have elaborate pre-performance routines that go well beyond rehearsals of the words they’ll be delivering on stage. 

    I’ve written before about the need to rehearse before any important speech or presentation. But my focus here is on three other components, which can also hugely improve your delivery. 

    They are: relaxation – breathing – and vocal exercises.

    If you have ever sung in a choir, it won’t sound strange that I mention relaxation and breathing in the same sentence as voice exercises. But, if you don’t currently practice any of these things, it will definitely help you as a speaker to develop a preparation and warm-up routine of your own that includes them. 

    If you practice yoga or meditation, you’ll be familiar with relaxation and breathing routines. If not, I recommend you borrow from these disciplines for exercises that will help you prepare yourself as a speaker, both physically and mentally.

    A good time to do them is early in the morning, soon after you wake up – and especially on the day that you’re due to speak.

    Then, for the voice, just as a singer prepares their voice by singing scales, actors will do something very similar with simple words and sounds before going on stage.

    As a speaker, you can – and should – warm up your voice too; preferably in a private place and in the hour or so before your big moment. An accessible and fun way that actors do it is by rapidly and playfully annunciating a range of easy to recall sounds.

    For example, by reciting a nonsense verse with all the energy you can muster, followed by a series of your favorite tongue twisters; or the letters of the alphabet, repeated five times each in quick succession. 

    Better still, if you can get in there before anyone else, do your warm-up in the same room or auditorium that you’re about to speak in.

    The only challenge is to not feel self-conscious about actually performing any of these warm-up routines. So don’t! 

    Think of them as entirely normal and necessary, for you to be a bigger and more memorable version of yourself!

    Peter Coë; November 3, 2023 

    Peter was a business journalist and BBC television news anchorman for many years, and has nearly 30 years’ experience as a speaker trainer and personal coach.

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