Vocal warm-up drills: how to prime your voice for public speaking and interviews
When you’re preparing to speak in public, whether for a speech, presentation or media interview, it can be very useful to run through some of the same vocal warm-up drills that singers and stage actors use to maximise vocal projection. If you prime your voice in this way, you will sound better without even having to think about it.
Jaw and cheek muscle release
- Find your Masseter (upper jaw) muscles, which hang from the back of your cheekbones in a notch about one inch in front of each ear.
- Find a point where firm pressure feels good. Push in and up with a finger or thumb.
- Press steadily for three slow breaths. Repeat three times.
- Open your mouth wide as if in shock or surprise. Hold for 10. Repeat three times.
(Based on therapeutic techniques for facial muscles and joints).
Lip buzz / "kazoo"
Inhale deeply, then exhale with your lips together but relaxed, so that they flap and buzz. (You can’t make the noise if your face is tense!)
- “Whisper” the buzz without engaging your vocal cords (like a horse’s snort).
- “Say” the buzz on a single note (like a child making the sound of a motor boat).
- “Sing” the buzz from low to high notes (like a child making the noise of a car engine racing up through the gears).
(Based on vocal warm-up drills used by singers to relax the lower face muscles).
Deep belly breathing
Shallow chest breathing (using only intercostal muscles) without belly breathing (using the diaphragm) causes weak vocal projection.
- Put a hand on your belly to feel your diaphragm pull in the breath deep and low. Breathe in on a slow count of five.
- Control the outbreath with your lips as if blowing out a candle, to a slow count of five, then 10, then 15.
(Based on techniques used by stage actors to maximise vocal projection).
Vocal cords and vowels
Breathe deeply using your diaphragm with your hand on your belly. Engage the vocal cords progressively with each outbreath:
- Touch the first outbreath with a gentle “ahhh” like a relaxing sigh.
- Touch the outbreath with a stronger “huh”.
- Turn it up to an even stronger “hey”.
- Add in the vowels one by one. Exaggerate the articulation and wrap your mouth around the sounds:
- “ey ee”
- “ey ee eye”
- “ey ee eye owe”
- “ey ee eye owe you”
Sometimes it’s impossible to find a private place to do warm-up drills. Instead:
- Talk to someone – anyone. Phone a friend. The louder and more energetic the conversation, the better.
- Sing along in the car to music you love.
- Find a quiet corner and yawn deeply to open up your jaw and chest.
- Take a deep breath and cough hard to activate your diaphragm.
ISOC course links
This content relates to the following short courses at the International School of Communications, available live online and also face-to-face at our training centres in London and Dubai:
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