– Kathy Bullock

The meeting Chair introduces your name and speech title, you unmute, anxiousness rising on your sweaty palms in anticipation. You have practiced, you will be fine, your inner voice soothes. You open with a catchy quote, and then stumble over the last few words, your tongue and lips as heavy as treacle. “Huh?” your inner voice, caught unaware, exclaims.

One of the things we often forget to do just before speaking is warm up. Would a sprinter change into her running clothes, walk out of the locker room into the stadium, and dash down the track? Would a swimmer change into his bathing clothes, walk out of the locker room, dive into the pool, and barrel down to the other end? They would not. They warm up before the real event, stretch, breathe, light movements, and the like.

Think about all the muscles used in speaking – the tongue, lips, cheeks, jaws, vocal cords, neck, shoulders – all these need to be warm, loose, pliable and flexible, ready to enunciate those vowel-consonant combinations that are words. So, for a speaker, the need to warm up the muscles is the same as an athlete.

Youtube is full of speech warm up exercises. Anna, from Verba Vocals, has one of my favourite quick warmups https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hb1Cv7aDXmk]: Mouth and face stretches; lip rolls; tongue routines; chest relaxers; vocal cord warmups; and diaphragm breathing. The finale – tongue twisters: Peter Piper picked a pick of pickled peppers.

If you want your tongue and lips to dance lightly over your words next time you speak, so that the audience is not caught up in deciphering, instead of understanding, the words’ meaning, try warming up before you begin.