The way I see it, one of my jobs as a master presentation coach is to continuously look for and try out new ways of preparing for, designing, and delivering talks and presentations.
Over the years I’ve developed a 5 minute warm-up that I use immediately before I go “on stage.”
It is what works for me. It may not work for you. Why? Because we each have our own obstacles, strengths, levels of awareness, and personalities that, when combined, create a unique situation.
I’ve shared this warm-up with a few people and want to share it with you so that you can take the bits that work for you and add others to make it your own.
1. Posture: Tall and Open. It turns out mom was right, sitting up straight is the right thing to do. And standing with a tall and open posture is also key to presenting like a master. I have found that starting with this action sets the tone for the following other steps as well as for the talk itself. The simple act of adjusting my posture instantly signals my brain that it is time to present with confidence – it changes my energy.
2. Breathing: Steady and Calm. Standing tall with shoulders back and ribcage lifted gives your lungs room to breath, so breath! Once I set my posture, I take 3 to 5 deep breaths to help calm my nerves and clear my mind. It also helps to remind me to breath in a slow and steady pace during my talk. But the important thing here is how you breath.
I realized not too long ago that I wasn’t breathing correctly. It was when I started to jog for my health that I realized I would get out of breath very quickly. I was breathing in shallow breaths. I was holding my stomach tight so there was no room for my lungs to fill. Then I discovered the right way to breath when I read Voice Power. It taught me to think of my belly / lungs as a bellows. The stomach expands naturally on an inhale without effort. The exhale is when you use energy to expel the bad air. Try it. You’ll be amazed.
3. Mindset: Hero Pose. Next I take on my hero’s pose, or what Amy Cuddy calls the power pose (check out her TED Talk.) The research behind this video is what sold me on including it in my routine. I’m not normally one to use positive affirmations or any of that mumbo jumbo. The more I read and understood the connections between the body and the mind for this activity the more I was willing to give it a try. Once I did I realized the power and include it in every warm-up. By the way, my choice is the ‘wonder woman’ pose with hands on hips. I just try not to picture myself in the skimpy little outfit or it undoes my confidence.
4. Vocal Warmups: Voice & Speech. Nothing says fear like your voice cracking. Nothing says confidence like a strong full voice. Think about that first conversation you have in the morning. Your voice is shallow and often cracks. You try to clear your throat before answering that first call in the morning but somehow the person on the other end says “did I wake you? You sound like you just woke up.”
Whether or not you suffer from cracking voice or morning voice, you’ll improve your tone and deliver of your presentation by doing a few warm up exercises. As with the breathing, I first discovered voice exercises from Voice Power. But I didn’t start doing them regularly until I heard this post from Julian Treasure. Listen to it. Download it. Do it!
Once I do all of these 4 steps, I am ready to deliver with confidence. Of course, I’ve prepared like mad before this so I know the material inside and out.
I recommend you try some of these items and explore what works best for you. Even if you are doing a virtual presentation, your body language and breathing and especially your voice are critical to your presence. Give them the attention they deserve. It only takes 5 minutes.