How to Do a Vocal Warm-Up for Public Speaking in 5 MinutesFeb 24, 2021
MYTH: “I’m not a public speaker”
I don’t know how many times people have admitted to me that they don’t do a warm-up before speaking in public.
Now, I’m not talking about Uncle Bob, and Auntie Aliya: I’m talking about people who speak for a living.
“Oh!” you say, “That doesn’t apply to me!”. Oh really? Let’s test that theory. Do you fit into any of these categories
1. You are an executive
2. You are a teacher
3. You are a parent
4. You are someone who sees patients all day
5. You are someone who sees clients all day
6. You are someone who spends their days on Zoom
7. You give directions all day
8. You give information all day
9. You explain things all day
10. You run fitness classes
11. You are a politician
12. You are a salesperson
13. You lead a faith group
14. You are a professional speaker
Starting to get the point? Right. Most of us are actually public speakers.
I know what you’re saying now: “Yeah, but those aren’t really public speakers, D, so it doesn’t count (except that last one!).”
Again I say, “Oh, really?”
What you really mean is that you aren’t a “stand in front of a bunch of people and talk while being looked at and judged and oh god perhaps your life, professional and personal, will be over because you just aren’t a professional and you don’t look as good as the professionals and you don’t sound like the pros kind of public speaker.”
Can I get an ‘amen’?
The fact is the larger majority of people are, in truth, public speakers. They just don’t think of it that way, because they believe “public speaking” is only a formal, arranged, anxiety-ridden, last-minute-panicked- ’cause-I-didn’t-prepare-in-advance thing.
If you have to speak as part of your job or day-to-day interaction with the world, you are a public speaker. Period.
FACT: Your Voice is a Vital Tool
As a result, YOUR voice is a key tool in the execution of your job or career or lifestyle. What happens when your voice goes? What happens when you do irreparable damage?
Think of it this way: We have the technology to replace hearts and lungs.
We do not have the technology to replace vocal folds.
And before you say something like, “I don’t use my voice like a public speaker” or “I don’t use my voice as much as a public speaker”, I’m going to stop you.
Ever heard of Vocal Disorder and Burnout Syndrome in teachers? It’s a thing. Look it up. For doctors, too. And salespeople. And and and. You get it.
Realistically, many jobs actually use the voice more than a professional public speaker. Further, those folks almost never have the right skills or understandings to practice what is called good vocal hygiene.
You’ve probably heard of ‘sleep hygiene’? It’s the proper way to prepare, manage and ritualize your sleep environment and patterns to maximize your quality of sleep and minimize the negative consequences of unhealthy sleep practices.
Well, there is actually a whole world of voice hygiene as well, and it exists for EXACTLY the same reasons. In other words, the preparation, management, and ritualization of voice practices maximize your voice’s natural abilities and potential and minimize the negative consequences of unhealthy vocal practices.
MYTH: “I don’t need to know anything about my voice. I use it just fine.”
“Knowledge is power.”
~ Francis Bacon
Frequently, at about this point in the conversation, I get two types of reaction:
First, the “I’m not a singer, so I don’t need to know this stuff,”; Second, the “I’m already a naturally good public speaker, so I don’t need any of this stuff.”
Wrong. And wrong.
I’ve worked with people across just about every discipline imaginable (and more), and without fail, there are a few things that they have in common:
- They have little understanding of how voice (for speaking) works (and that includes the doctors, btw);
- They don’t know how to support their voices with breath (the most they might know is “I have to speak from the diaphragm”);
- They have had little to no training in effective voice-use and expression skills;
- They don’t understand vocal hydration; and
- They regularly ‘cold start’ - meaning, they go from prolonged silence to high-volume speaking.
This list pretty much epitomizes the ‘no-no’ list for vocal hygiene. There are other elements, but it’s definitely a good “sampler” list.
I’ve always found it super-interesting that we place so much (educational) emphasis on reading and writing (both of critical importance), but we are more than lax when it comes to listening and speaking. Frankly, we listen and speak far more than we read and write, in most instances. Yet we somehow think that - because we are told to listen, we know how to do it well (see my recent blog/vlog, “How to Listen instead of Just ‘Hearing’: ).
Similarly, because we learn spoken language from birth, we know “how to speak”. While we know how to make sound, and use words in various ways to convey meaning (or attempt to convey meaning), we cannot assume that that means we’re good at it, or that we do it in a safe and healthy manner.
Warming Up Your Voice is Easy, Quick and Critical
Many - if not most - people assume that aging means you get an “old person’s voice”. Airy, crackly, weak, pitchy, lacking crispness and colour - it’s just what happens when you age, right?
Here’s a little experiment for you to try: listen to a bit of each of these YouTube videos, and compare the difference in the voices, the older (first) and then the younger. You may have to listen more than once to really notice differences - they are that slight. This is quite a feat when, for instance, you consider nearly 50 years has gone by in the Sir Michael Caine examples.
Sir Anthony Hopkins, 2020 (83 years old): https://youtu.be/HXIU17E4rPc
Sir Anthony Hopkins, 2018 (81 years old): https://youtu.be/ovypV3kmFG0
Glenn Close, 2020 (73 years old): https://youtu.be/bqQbyclfQ-0
Glenn Close, 1995 (48 years old): https://youtu.be/dYIcNkffjzQ
Denzel Washington, 2020 (65 years old): https://youtu.be/tbnzAVRZ9Xc
Denzel Washington, 2000 (45 years old): https://youtu.be/FaK4VLckCYM
Viola Davis, 2020 (55 years old): https://youtu.be/_s4wrJ9c22E
Viola Davis, 2009 (44 years old): https://youtu.be/ThsZ8wfhJpk
Sir Michael Caine, 2020 (87 years old): https://youtu.be/ThsZ8wfhJpk
Sir Michael Caine, 1972 (39 years old): https://youtu.be/K9n_gXq2Ivg
Now hold up a minute: before you point out that these people are Oscar-winning actors, and therefore should have impeccable voices, and before you argue that they were ‘born with it’, I’m going to shoot you down.
Sure, Denzel Washington’s voice is rich and mellifluous. But it’s just as beautiful at 65 as at 45, and that’s what’s really intriguing. You see, at around age 50, men’s AND women’s voices start to show real signs of aging, if they aren’t cared for. Of course, many people’s voices go to hell long before that, due to lifestyle and behavioural choices (which we will discuss in a future blog).
Why, then, are these talented performers showing little sign of wear-and-tear on their voices, despite the nature of what they do, and the passage of time?
You’ve likely guessed the answer.
Vocal hygiene. They take care of their voices. They warm up. They don’t strain.
And you can take advantage of the exact same tools and techniques they use, and you can do so quickly, easily, and with great long-term results.
How to Warm Up Your Voice in Five Minutes
While you can definitely spend upwards of 45 minutes on a vocal warm-up (no, I am not kidding), that’s hardly practical for the average person. What I’m offering you here is something you can do in your car, in your home office, in your shower, on your walk, wherever you are that allows
a) you to do this right before speaking a lot, and
b) you to actually fully vocalize.
It’s that second one that people get weird about. There’s something that unnerves people about having to make a bunch of random sounds with a full voice. They’ll try and ‘cheat’ and half-whisper it, thinking it’s “just as good.”
IT’S NOT. In fact, it’s actually harmful. But more on that another day.
For now, let’s look at how YOU can get your warm-up practice off the ground in virtually no time at all:
The 4 Steps To Warming Up Your Voice In 5 Minutes
1. Warm up your face. Totally not kidding.
- Smile super-wide (Cheshire Cat-size), then pucker your lips
- Alternate back-and-forth 10 times (you’ll probably start to fatigue by the end!)
- Wrinkle your nose up, then drop your jaw and stretch your tongue out, 10x (try to keep your eyes open!)
2. Align your shoulders and stretch your neck.
- Roll your shoulders back, and then down (feeling the blades lie flat)
- Lower your head down, feel that stretch
- Tilt your head left, then right, again feeling a deep stretch
- Tilt your head back, enough that you feel the stretch in the root of your tongue (did you know your tongue fills up the whole of your lower jaw? Your tongue is HUGE).
3. Fill your mouth with sound.
- Lightly touch your lips together, BUT teeth remain apart
- Keep tongue relaxed in mouth (that stretch from STEP TWO!)
- Create a hum that you feel on the inside back of your lips
- While humming (and keeping tongue relaxed!) open up the inside of your mouth (think of a cave) - listen to how the sounds becomes richer
- Wiggle your jaw back and forth to keep it from getting tight while humming
4. Mobilize your articulators (the movable parts of your mouth that shape sound)
- Keep everything aligned, your throat relaxed, your jaw relaxed
- puh-buh-puh-buh-puh-buh 10x
- tuh-duh-tuh-duh-tuh-duh 10x
- kuh-guh-kuh-guh-kuh-guh 10x
- Repeat the alphabet, with a widely moving mouth (full range of motion)
- Repeat numbers 1-10, with a widely moving mouth
And that’s it. It’s short, sweet, and you can put a little pic of this on your phone, so you have it handy for those moments when you remember to warm up before overexerting your voice! You can even make yourself a little voice note, walking you through the exercises, like I do in the vlog. And bonus points if you record your voice NOW, and then record again after a few weeks of taking care of your voice. See what difference YOU can hear.
You might also notice that you begin to experience and hear your voice differently. This is because you are becoming tuned to a different frequency - one where your voice doesn’t just exist as this thing that magically comes out of your mouth, but is rather an extension of your experience in your body - one that lets you touch the word in ways that hands cannot.
This is, of course, only the beginning of what there is to learn and implement as far as vocal hygiene and maximizing your voice’s power and potential - but you have to start somewhere, right?
Enjoy a long life with a healthy voice, ok?
“Vocal exercises are the analogy of a runner who stretches before running a race.”
~ Roger Love
(ps. I am personally inviting you to book a wee chat with me, at TEEwithD - we’ll have a Zoom call, a cuppa something we like, and get to know each other a bit. Click Here
I’ll tell you all about my signature TEEwithD™ Transformation Coaching for Women. I love nothing better than helping women just like you unleash all of the wildness and potential just waiting to emerge.
This is your opportuniTEE (see what I did there? ;-) )
When you’re ready, I’ll be waiting.
PS. If you’re interested in learning more about the how-to elements of communication, if you’re curious about how you can become the best version of your communication self, if you want an arena to learn and practice in, then get on the TEEwithD™️ waitlist for our course launches! Not only do you get the first crack at enrolment in the next session, you ALSO get direct weekly links to these awesome blogs/vlogs, and freebies I’m sending out, notices about webinars and other opportunities, and anything else I think you might need, use or enjoy from the world of TEEwithD™️! https://www.teewithd.com/coaching
If you want to join a group of like-minded women who are OWNING IT, but want to take their game even further by really digging into and defining their values, vision, and voice, on their own terms!), then TEEwithD will be the place to be! - the launch of the digital, global platform will allow you to learn, laugh, lead and leverage your greatest strengths as a person and a speaker, in pursuit of your biggest dreams (oh, and we’re out to help each other change the world, too!). Sign up here to be part of the “in crowd”!