What no dressing room?
We’ve all been there, you get asked to speak at a huge event and when you show up you realise you haven’t got your own dressing room. Nightmare!
It might sound like the behaviour of a complete diva but it isn’t. Warming up before you speak is important. A good warm up will get the blood pumping. It gets you raring to go. It is simple, speaking uses three things:
- Your voice
- Your mind
- Your body
You need to get these three things warmed up before you start. The problem is most of the ways of doing that make you look like an idiot.
It is OK to look like an idiot in a dressing room, but you might not want to do it in public. You may find yourself in front of people for an hour before you actually get to speak. Which makes warming up hard even if they did give you a dressing room, which they didn’t! What can you do?
Here are some top tips for warming up when you haven’t got a dressing room.
Warm up your Mind
It is possible to make a speech without using your brain, we’ve all heard people do it. But it is not a great idea.
The good news is that warming up your mind is one of the easiest things to do in public. After all, it just involves a bit of thinking and people can’t see if you are thinking or not. So here are two techniques that stay, very firmly, in your head.
Affirmations are positive statements that you repeat to yourself to help reinforce a belief. Some speakers will repeat these statements to themselves out loud into a mirror. The toilet is a great place to do this so long as it is not full of your audience.
They are just as effective if you think them to yourself. If you really concentrate on putting emphasis, passion and power into the statement, it is a great way to limber up the bit of your mind that helps you to speak like that.
The statement that you choose to repeat to yourself can be tailored to your situation or it could be something like “I am a confident speaker”, “this pitch will succeed” or “people will love my presentation”. Which ever phrase you choose, make sure you repeat it at least five times. Once you have repeated it to yourself you will start to believe it.
Visualisation is a powerful technique used by leaders, sportspeople and entertainers to make sure that they reach their very best. It is preferable to do it in a nice quiet calm space but with a bit of practice you can learn to do it anywhere.
In one sense it is very simple. All you do is imagine yourself in front of the audience delivering a knock out performance. The more involved your visualisation, the more effective it is. In that sense it is complex. It can take a while if you are doing a 45-minute talk.
That said if you really concentrate on imagining yourself delivering your presentation, it will help you to remember what you are going to say. But the clever bit is that visualisation fools your brain into thinking that your presentation has really happened like that. It will give you a subconscious confidence boost.
Mind over matter
Whether you use affirmations or visualisation you are sure to get your grey matter working. That can only help to prepare you for your presentation. If nothing else, it is something to concentrate on other than your nerves.
Warm up your Body
All good warm ups involve a physical element. Sure, you aren’t about to run a marathon, but you will be using your body to aid your communication and if you want to do that to maximum effect you need to be warm. A good warm up gets the blood pumping and eases the tension in your muscles.
The technique that I use most before speaking or going into a big meeting is simply squeezing my muscles. It sounds too simple to help, all you do is tense as many muscles as you can and hold them tense for five to ten seconds. You can do it standing up or sitting down. It really is simple.
Yet it is also very effective. I find it relaxes me and removes that stressful tension that you get when you are nervous.
I was told that it has something to do with breaking down stress toxins. I’m not sure about that and I don’t really care. It works.
Focus on your legs
A variation of the squeeze technique is to tense the big muscles in your legs and buttocks. This is something fighter pilots and astronauts do to stop themselves passing out. I’m not saying you are in danger of fainting but by tensing these big muscles you will get the blood pumping and raise your blood pressure.
Maybe you think that your blood pressure is high enough! Yet it will drop if your sit down for long periods. Which is why this technique is so good when you are speaking during a lengthy meeting. By raising your blood pressure before you speak you ensure that there is enough blood getting to your head resulting in you being more alert.
Speaking body language
The importance of your body is often underrated in speech making, yet it is the base for everything you do. So spending some time making sure it is in the best state, is time well spent. And if nothing else, it gives you something to concentrate on that isn’t your nerves.
Warm up your Voice
About the only place that you can do a decent vocal warm up in public is a church. Singing the hymns can be a great way to get your vocal cords going. And your voice needs to be warm if the reading contains some unpronounceable names.
So what are you going to do if you aren’t in church?
Your voice is powered by air, so you should start with your breathing. Breathing exercises are simple and they are a lot less noticeable than singing.
Start by breathing in for four beats, hold it for four beats and breathe out for four beats. Repeat that a few times and you will make a difference to your breathing and your voice. You do need to be a bit subtle though. If you get too carried away your colleagues will notice.
It won’t come as a surprise to discover that the other major component of speech is your mouth. Like anything in your body, it doesn’t work well from a cold start. You should focus on warming up your tongue and your jaw.
In the warm up you’d do in a dressing room your tongue would be out and wiggling around. Don’t do that in public. You can still give it a bit of warm up by keeping it in your mouth. Poke your tongue through your teeth and circle it around them, it should feel a little bit like you are cleaning your teeth with your tongue.
Warming up your jaw is even simpler. Just imagine you have a piece of gum in your mouth. Then chew! Make sure you chew it with a bit of purpose and make sure you swap sides so you give the whole of your jaw a work out.
The voice of an angel
These exercises are fairly subtle, but you may want casually to put your hand over your mouth for added camouflage. Either way it is a good way of making sure that your vocal equipment is in tip top condition. And if nothing else, it is something to concentrate on that isn’t how nervous you are.
You can’t hope to achieve peak performance without warming up. You need your mind to be firing on all cylinders. You need your body energised and ready to burst onto stage. And you need a warm voice to give your speech the power and subtlety it needs.
Warm ups are important.
Yet they are hard without a dressing room and 99% of the time you don’t get one. But that won’t be a problem for you. You are going to use the techniques above to make sure you are in tip top condition.
So instead if being a diva who demands a dressing room, you are just going to be a star performer.