Scott Sparrow, professional actor and City Academy voice and business coach, gives us some warm-up tips to make sure the body and voice are ready to perform when it counts.
Being prepared for the the big moment comes with the territory for performers, and in the modern workplace these skills are becoming ever more desirable too, with the need to present and communicate ideas with passion and clarity being vital in so many business contexts.
Scott talks us through a 10-minute physical and vocal warm up routine, which can even be done on the move on the way to your next presentation.
There are times when your presentation skills have to be in tip-top condition: you can picture the meeting. Here is what you need to walk into the room with:
- Physical and vocal confidence
- Clarity, economy and a passion for your idea
- Receptivity to challenging questions
Here is a simple warm-up package that will prepare you physically and vocally and it can be used in an office environment or en-route to your meeting.
Physical Warm Up
It is always best to do a physical warm up before a vocal one as it will get rid of the tensions in your body which will then free up your voice. This helps especially if you have been sitting at a desk for most of the day with your focus on a computer.
Stand with your feet in line with your hips, arms loosely by your side and your head as if it is being lightly pulled up towards the ceiling. On the intake of breath, tense your shoulders up as if you are trying to touch your ears with them. Hold it there for 3 seconds. Repeat this 3 or 4 times. This simple hold and release will get rid of the tension in your neck and chest. It can be done in a small space and a variation of it can be done on the move. However if you are doing this while walking make sure it is not done at full pace!
The next exercise is also suitable for a small space and will help release all the tension in your back muscles. Adopt a relaxed standing position, feet in line with your hips, and let your head drop so that your chin is touching the top of your chest. Continue this movement to your shoulders so that they drop and your arms are hanging loosely over your knees. Let the rest of your spine roll out so that your hands are now touching the floor. You can bend your knees. Hang there for about 5 seconds, letting all the blood rush to your head, and reverse the exercise, starting with your back, moving into your shoulders and ending finally with your head sitting straight.
Find a smooth transition between dropping the head, dropping the shoulders and letting the rest of the spine roll out. Picture each vertebrae unlocking as you roll down, and then connecting again as you roll back up. Repeat this a couple of times increasing in speed and it will loosen your spine and steady your breathing.
There are two steps here:
1) Warm the voice
2) Strengthen articulation
Put a hand on each rib cage and breathe in, feel the rib cages pushing out on the hands. Breathe out on a vocalised sigh; it does not have to be loud - just as long as you feel it engaging the vocal cords, and feel the rib cages contract back in. Repeat this about ten times and it will relax and warm your vocal cords which will then be free of nerves that usually catch up in your throat. You can do this sitting down too, on the tube or a bus, but just make sure that your back is straight and you focus on pushing your hands out with your ribs. This focused breathing will also relax you.
Then move on to your articulation and a little trick which can be done under time pressure. Take a quote from one of your favourite films and keep it on a piece of paper. Just before you go into your meeting recite this quote very quietly somewhere, it doesn’t have to be loud and you can do it at a whisper. You want to feel like you are massaging each word, going over the top with pronunciation, opening your mouth wide on the vowels and hitting the consonants hard. It's important to choose a piece of text that you enjoy as you will connect with it and this puts you into a focus and confidence that you will carry through to your meeting. Do not use the notes for your actual meeting to warm up, let that go for a bit, and relax with a fun piece of text. This will also calm your nerves.
All of this can be done within ten minutes but it can make all the difference to your presence in a key meeting. It is also discreet and you will be able to warm up without drawing attention, whether you are in your office or on the move.
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