Vocal warm-ups are an ancient speech preparation practice–the Greek orator Demosthenes famously cured his stuttering and taught himself to speak clearly by talking with pebbles in his mouth.
While putting rocks in your mouth may not be an appealing exercise today, there are techniques you can use to make sure that your voice and throat are warmed-up before you step-up to speak. Here are a few:
Tongue twisters. Heard more on schoolyard than in the boardroom, these tricky sentences were created for a reason– clear, accurate, speaking. “Red leather, yellow leather,” and “did you get a ticket to Chicago, did you get a ticket, did you go?” are two classic vocal tongue twisters that you can recite before your name is introduced to the audience.
Singing. If you’re musically inclined, try singing or humming scales. Dr. Robert Haakenson, a long-time mentor of mine and a former professor at Temple University once shared that he would sing to his hearts’ content before stepping up to speak. It helped prepare his voice as well as manage nervous energy!
Recently, prior to an all-important client webinar, my voice was feeling a little “cranky” and I followed Dr. Haakenson’s advice and my voice was “primed” as I started the session.
Reading aloud. You can read your speech notes, but perhaps it’s best if you read from a novel or the newspaper. Play with your voice a little (but don’t overdo it on the loud end) and see if you can regulate your breathing at the same time. This should calm you down and get your voice warmed up at the same time.
Next time you step up to speak, try one of these “warm-ups” and experience how it impacts your performance!