Basic Exercises and Tips Before Giving a Presentation or Speech

Confidence & Voice

For effective communication skills, you need to be in good voice, try doing these exercises before giving your next presentation or speech.

Find an empty room or corridor – you’ll be making some unusual sounds!

Only do these exercises if your back is in good shape. These are relaxing exercises and should be done slowly and easily – take this into account if you are particularly stressed.

With the heels of your hands pushing up towards the ceiling, have a good stretch. Keeping your head facing forward, first stretch up with your left hand, feeling your left side stretch out and then with your right hand, feeling your right side stretch out – do this 3 times. With both hands extended towards the ceiling, relax your knees and on an outward breath flop over so that your hands dangle over your toes. Gently unroll from this position while breathing in leaving your head until last.

Stand erect against a wall with your hands and feet about 5 cms away from the wall so that your body is supported from your upper back to your coccyx. Sense that your hands are getting heavier and pulling down and away from your shoulders. Sense the space between your ears and shoulders growing and the back of your head is lifting up through the spine. Gently breathe out completely – and I mean completely. When you can breathe out no more, gently breathe in through your nose for a count of 5 and then out through your mouth for a count of eight. You should feel changes in the muscles in your lower rib cage against the back of the wall while you are breathing out and then in.

Stand away from the wall with your arms by your sides. Start humming on a low note. Make sure you are using your outward breath. Gently raise your right arm in time with raising the pitch of your hum until your hand is pointing to the ceiling and you are in your highest note. Lower the arm back down to your side while humming from your highest note back down into your lowest note. If you feel the vibration in your throat but not your lips stop and say: “muh muh, muh muh, muh muh” multiple times with your lips moving until you feel the vibration in your lips. You should feel a strong vibration or tickle on your lips on the hum. Do this 3 times with both the left and the right arm.

The siren sound (the old fashioned police siren). Gently place the fingers of your left or right hand against the side of your cartilage shield at the front of your neck. With a relaxed jaw and open mouth say the siren sound in a high note and then a low note. Feel the movement of your voice box and the vibration under your fingers. Do this once.

Before others enter check, that the room where your giving your presentation is set out to your liking – make sure that you will have good visual contact with your participants and that they will all be able to see your slides if you are going to use PowerPoint. As they enter, briefly have eye contact with each participant.

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The Kennedys

Greg Kinnear

Why have the broadcast companies in the States got it in for the miniseries about the Kennedys? I saw the first 2 episodes and was really grasped. Greg Kinnear was over-ish in his face acting but very truthful for someone in almost continual physical pain from a back injury. I was scared by Tom Wilkinson as Joseph Kennedy and I thought that Katie Holmes was a convincing young Jackie Kennedy in everything but deportment and voice. Jackie Kennedy was the product of a public school that produced girls with ramrod straight backs and crystal clear diction. In the sitting and speaking stakes, Rose Kennedy won hands down.

I’ve been told that people in the States are not keen on Katie Holmes because they feel she’s getting the parts through being married to Tom Cruz and not on merit. Wow! Imagine the pressure of having to justify yourself every time you go on camera at her age.

I’ve read that the History Channel dropped the miniseries because of pressure from the remaining members of the Kennedy family. Surely they can’t believe that the series will discredit the Kennedy family? Is there anything imagined or known about the Kennedys that hasn’t already been aired.

I think it’s great that we can watch it on BBC2 along with everyone in Ireland where John Kennedy remains a legend and even the most devout excuse his marital infidelities as minor mishaps.

Public Speaking – take a deep breath!

Public Speaking

How often did your mum tell you to take a deep breath when you were young and had to say something in public? I know mine did.

What you actually do is breathe in so deeply on top of breath that’s already there that your lungs get the information that you have to breathe out completely in order to take a clean deep breath in.

If you try to speak after the initial deep breath on top of breath that’s already in your lungs you’re going to have to let some breath out anyway before you vocalise and that in itself will reduce the power of your voice.

Why not allow yourself time to do the deep breathing before you get up to speak? No one will be aware of your preparation except you. A simple way of doing this is releasing slowly all the breath from your lungs and then breathing in deeply 3 times. You can count out for 8 while expelling the air and in for 5 before the next breath release.

It’s particularly good if you’re sitting down on a chair with a high back as you can feel the deep air being released from the base of your lungs inside the ribcage against the back of the chair as you breathe out and filling up again as you breathe in. It has the added benefit of taking your mind off all the scary faces waiting in the audience for you to speak. If you’re standing you can still perform the exercise and it has the effect of grounding you and making you more stable on your feet.

With this simple preparation you won’t have too much breath in your lungs and you’ll be able to speak cleanly on your first outward breath.

This plus other simple techniques that we use in our voice training programmes enable you to concentrate at once on what you want to say not how you’re saying it and allow the process to become enjoyable for everyone. While you’ll get sympathy from some of your audience when your nerves are revealed in your voice, most of them will feel edgy on your behalf.

Public speakers require different use of their breath flow to singers. Of course it’s always great to increase your lung capacity and singing is great for doing this but the techniques for delivery are widely different.

Rhythmic and Vocal Profile of English Spoken Today

Rythmic Profile of English

One of the more important aspects of getting some speakers of English as a second language to express themselves more clearly in English is rhythm. Every language, including English, has its own rhythm – some languages acquire a very marked rhythm where words are strongly stressed within groups. In most languages the words are organised so that the rhythmic stress falls on the most important words, i.e. the key words expressing the content of what we’re saying.

However, a problem shared by many who do not speak English as a first language is that they are tempted to use the rhythmic stress of their own language when they are expressing themselves in English. Such rhythms may make the English language more comfortable for them when transferring their thoughts into speech. The rhythm can work well when the stress falls on the nouns or keywords. The problem arises when the stress is made on the personal pronouns – ‘his’, ‘her’, ‘their’, ‘its’ or on the definite article ‘the’ or the indefinite articles ‘a’ or ‘an’.

When this happens, the listener has to decipher the key messages in the speech. It can give diverse messages to the listener and these can often be humorous. Everyone likes to laugh, but when you’re at the centre of the joke and the joke is about the way you communicate, it can be hurtful and disruptive to your confidence and progress.

More seriously, the messages you put across can also be damaging. The worst possible message that wrongly applied stress can send during diplomatic business meetings, for example, is: “I don’t really want you to understand what I’m saying, so I’m stressing all the words that aren’t important to distract you from those that are.”

Max Your Voice takes account of your entire Vocal Profile. The importance for communication of all the different aspects of your voice and speech and the way it’s developed and the way you use it – all of these are addressed in all voice and speech training given at Max Your Voice.

Our Speak English Clearly course was developed over 2 years with the help of an Educational Psychologist. It was tested with 30 different clients who shared 15 different languages. While the structure of the course remains the same as when it was first launched, the Speak English Clearly course has developed along with the changes and influences to spoken English over the last 8 years.

For more information on our courses email or phone +44(0)20 85422777