All performers, from athletes to entertainers, know that a warm-up is essential to peak performance. As a speaker, you can have both a physical warm up and a mental warm up, too!
To get you started with a warm-up routine, I’ll share mine. Take what works for you and feel free to modify.
You may be able to fit a warm up (or parts of a warm up) in your car on the way to a local event, in your hotel room, or in a restroom. My 5-minute warm up consists of 3 parts: tension-reduction, vocal exercises and mental preparation. If I don’t have privacy, I will often do the vocal exercises in my car or in my hotel room and do the other parts in a restroom just prior to speaking.
Stage 1 (1.5 minutes): tension-reduction
- Combat breaths: Do at least 4 (breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4)
- “Tall Stretch”
With feet a shoulder-width apart, and without bending, raise one arm straight up, reaching as high as you can for about 4 seconds, then do the same with the other arm, then rotate your arms & shoulders outward as you pull your arms back and down, with your elbows leading the way down. (Click here for a video, starts at 3:10–watch until 3:40)
- Neck rolls: do a few
- Facial warm up: Smile big a few times, wiggle your lips around, stick your tongue out!
Stage 2 (1.5 minutes): Vocal exercises (can be done prior to stage 1, if privacy is an issue)
- Sing the Do-Ri-Mi song a couple of times (or any song that takes your voice through a range of notes):
Do (Doe), a deer, a female deer
Re (Ray), a drop of golden sun
Mi (Me), a name, I call myself
Fa (Far), a long, long way to run
So (Sew), a needle pulling thread
La, a note to follow So
Ti (Tea), a drink with jam and bread
That will lead us back to Do, oh, oh, oh . . . Doe . . .
- Perform a vocal slide a few times (with your mouth open, sing “ah” as you slide from a comfortable low note to a comfortably high note and back down. Repeat, trying to extend your range a little bit, going a little higher and a little lower).
- Say a few tongue twisters:
- Red leather, yellow leather
- She sells sea shells by the sea shore
- Unique New York
Stage 3: Mental Preparation (1-2 min)
- Assume one or more Power Poses (hands on hips, arms upstretched in a “V” for victory)
- Repeat a positive phrase several times, such as: I am smart. I am powerful. I can make a difference
- Visualize your audience as engaged, looking at you with interest and anticipation
- Visualize yourself speaking with energy and authenticity
- Say your first few sentences out loud, with power and purpose
Right before you speak, take a few seconds to breathe, stand tall, mentally rehearse your opening, make eye contact with your audience and smile! (see How to Be a More Confident Speaker in 10 Seconds)