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Improve Public Speaking By Warming Up Properly

There is a good post over at Blargy that provides some good tips on being a great public speaker. The author does a great job of explaining some of the fundamentals to public speaking. I thought a small addition to this list might be helpful: tips on warming up.

First, let me throw in the caveat that I am not an expert by any means. However, I have done a fair amount of reading on this subject, and I have done my share of speaking. That does not make me an expert, it just makes me less of a newbie.

Second, remember that public speaking skills are useful for everyone. Attorneys need them even if you never step foot in a courtroom. How many presentations might you do before clients, fellow attorneys, or just friends? Wouldn’t you like to do a better job in all of these instances?

Warm Up and Relax Your Body

One key to speaking is to remember that your body supports everything that you will be doing in front of your audience. Thus, you must remember to relax your body and be properly warmed up.

In my opinion, the easiest way to do this is just to do a few basic stretches. Then think about tension that you may have stored up, and relax all of your muscles.

One handy exercise is to do “the rag doll”. Simply stand up and then let your torso bend at the waist and let all of your muscles go, so you are literally hanging down to the ground (but your legs are still straight, but not tensed). Then slowly start standing up, one vertebrae at a time. Try to take as long as you can doing this, until you are finally working your way up your neck, making sure your head is hanging down until the very end. At this point, you should be standing straight up, but in a comfortable position. Try repeating this exercise and doing it even slower.


The next step is to open your lungs up and breathe using your entire chest cavity. This is simply a deep breathing exercise.

Place your hand on your stomach, exhale, and then slowly fill your lungs with air. Make sure you feel your hand moving, or you are not breathing deeply enough. Then slowly exhale and repeat. Try this a few times, until you feel air filling your entire chest.

Vocal Exercises

Finally, warm up your voice. See, only part of the art of warming up even deals with your voice. If you aren’t relaxed and breathing properly, nothing you do for your voice will even matter.

You want to warm up your vocal chords, so you get a nice, rich sound when you speak. This can be done by simply making a variety of different sounds in your mouth. Basically, you will be humming different sounds: zzzzz, mmmmm, aaaaa, oooooo, uuuuu, tttttt, sssss, etc. Think of as many different types of sounds and pitches as you can, and hum each one for a few seconds. You should feel different parts of your mouth and face vibrate and quite literally become warm.

For the warm up finale, do some simple vocal exercises. When doing these, focus on annunciating properly and making sure each and every syllable can be heard and understood. This warms up your voice, but also helps you to focus on speaking clearly. There is a good list of exercises for this at GreatVoice.

Knock ‘Em Dead

You’re ready to go! You should feel relaxed, warmed up, and ready to speak with a rich, deep voice. The beauty of most of these exercises (except the rag doll) is that you can do them in the car on the way to your speaking engagement (or interview). See, there is no excuse for not warming up.

Do you have any speaking warm-up tips? If so, please post a comment or drop me a line to share them with us.

[tags]legal andrew, speaking, warm up, voice, vocal, breathe[/tags]

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6 Responses to “Improve Public Speaking By Warming Up Properly”

  1. [...] Andrew Flusche presents Improve Public Speaking By Warming Up Properly posted at Legal Andrew. [...]

  2. [...] Be sure to check out yesterday’s Personal Development Carnival, where you can find awesome articles to help in your personal development. One featured article is my post on warming up prior to public speaking. Wander over and see if anything peaks your interest. [...]

  3. [...] Flusche presents Improve Public Speaking By Warming Up Properly posted at Legal [...]

  4. Good stuff – as we often remind people on our courses however, breathing in isn’t about breathing *big*, or even about breathing *deep* as much as it is about breathing *low*.

    The important thing is to avoid using (too much) intercostal muscle (chest stuff) as that is related to your fight-or-flight reflex (and thus kicks out shed-loads of Adrenaline, the nervy hormone).


  5. Martin Ng
    February 11th, 2009

    Another great warm-yourself-up technique – tell yourself a joke. Or tune into a comedy podcast, or do anything that makes you laugh. Jump out from behind a door and shout Boo! if you like! Anything that genuinely makes you laugh gets all those lovely endorphins racing around, and even if you have to give a serious talk, you’ll be in a much better frame of mind about it.

  6. Andrew Flusche
    February 13th, 2009

    @Martin – I love your joke / comedy tip. That’s awesome!

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