Every speaker I’ve worked with has said they want more authentic confidence. They want to show up and be seen as their brilliant selves on stage. It’s my experience that speakers get stuck on perfecting their words, when really it’s focusing on breath, body, voice, and mind that’s of more value to them, because your audience will most attune to the emotional and non-verbal impact of your talk.

I recently coached several TEDx speakers, and offered to lead the warm-up for all of the speakers before the big event. What surprised me is how few speakers knew about the importance of warming up. In a high pressure situation where you have only one shot to connect, where there are hundreds in the audience and potentially thousands more who will watch the video, what a great advantage warm up can give you to show up and be your best.

I found this the case too when working with professional speakers. I asked a 2 time TEDx speaker, who gives over 50 talks per year around the world, if he’s ever warmed up even his voice before stepping on stage. He said no. Another good friend of mine who just did 3 big conference talks and workshops, and was off south to do another asked me, “Do you really warm up your clients for an hour?” Yes!

As a public speaking coach there are two big reasons I highly recommend warming up. First is for physical vocal health. The secondly is so you can be your authentically confident self in body, and mind from the first word.

As the main tool for speaking, your voice is precious, and without proper care can loose sound quality or become irreversibly damaged. Speakers often don’t think of the value of their voice, until they can’t use it. How would you be at public speaking if you couldn’t talk?

Much like when you go for an intense run, the muscles and vocal cords that do the work, can’t just work out for 20-90 minutes at high intensity without proper preparation. Vocal cords vibrate together to create the sound of your voice, at a rate of 100-1000 times per second. Try clapping your hands together as fast as you can and you’ll feel the sting in your palms. Ouch!

Many of the speakers I work with who will be speaking at conferences or TEDx stages do most of their regular speaking giving workshops. They get to take speaking breaks while listening to participants, or while they do an activity. Facing the lights of the stage, the blank concentrated faces of the audience, and non-stop vocal usage can be a difficult first time experience if you aren’t prepared. So if you’re accustomed to doing workshops only, a warm-up is the perfect gift you can give your voice before speaking.

Secondly, only 7% of how your audience will perceive and remember you will be from words. The rest is voice tone and body language. Voice tone and pitch convey your truthfulness, credibility, charisma and confidence to your audience. I know you want to demonstrate these qualities from the first step on the stage, not by the middle of your presentation when you will be ‘warmed-up’.

If you’ve ever felt that knot in your stomach and sweaty palms while speaking to a group, you know the sensations your body gives off that can translate into nervousness, and a blank mind at the wrong moment. All body language cues the audience will pick up and possibly put them off what you’re saying. Warming up your body before hand to release the energy in motion (e-motion) will change that into powerful and grounded energy running through your system instead.

Your New Warm-up Routine

There are four parts to this warm-up and you can spend as little or as much time as you want on each. In my experience, anything longer than 20 minutes of speaking or when the stakes are higher doing a full hour of warm-up will help you to feel your best from the moment their attention’s on you.

Breath

I recommend standing with feet hip width apart, back and shoulders straight, neck relaxed. Place one hand on your belly, and the other hand at the top of your rib cadge. Take deep enough breaths that you can feel the belly expand and the rib cage move upwards. See if there’s any tightness when you breath, and breath until it’s relaxed.

Visualization

With your eyes closed as you continue to breath. Visualize and call up the way you want to feel during your presentation or talk. Visualize the end of your presentation as a success. Visualize how you want to feel at the end. Visualize how you want your audience to feel at the end.

Body

This is a fun one! Choose a favourite piece of music. Put it on. Now get up and dance, like no one’s watching. Move the way your body wants to. Work through any places energy is getting stuck by moving it out. Hear and feel the rhythm of the music. Focus on how your body feels.

Voice

  1. Start with the straw exercise by Ingo Titze. Doing a pitch glide from low to high and back down again through a straw.
  2. Do some humming to get the air moving and your ear calibrated to the sound of your own voice.
  3. Transition to making a single sustained note sound singing out “AH”.
  4. Practice the single sustained note using low power breath. Then, keeping the volume the same, make the note using a high power sound (using your abdominal muscles to power the breath). Try doing the two breath powers on the same breath.

These reasons to warm-up and the exercises I’ve outlined are just the tip of the ice burg when it comes to being your most authentic and aligned self while speaking in public. Sharing your world-changing message is courageous and vulnerable work, so take the investment that will pay off right away: warm-up that gorgeous public speaking instrument of yours before each time you use it.