"The good thing about warm-ups is that they’re highly customizable to whatever situation you find yourself in."
Let’s talk about a moment that often gets glossed over: the moment before. Those few seconds just before the presentation, the meeting, the pitch. What are you, as a communicator, doing in that moment before?
If you’ve ever seen a large orchestra perform, or seen a Broadway show, you’ve heard what the musicians are doing in that moment: tuning their instruments, playing the most challenging parts of the score, and listening to their colleagues to make sure that they’re all in sync. It’s a pleasant sound, one you can probably hear in your head right now. Take a second and imagine it. That’s the sound of everything coming together in the moment before.
At GK Training, we teach our clients that Communication is a Physical Art. That means that to communicate in the most effective, most engaging way, you have to fully involve your physical body. Guess what? That physical body is your instrument. It is how you transmit the ideas in your head across time and space to other people. And just like a musician warming-up before a show, you should be warming-up your physical body before any communication opportunity.
So, what is a communication warm-up?
Well, you probably know what a physical warm-up is, generally. If you’ve ever played sports, taken a yoga or dance class, or worked with a trainer in-person or through a fitness app, you’ve done a warm-up. It’s simply any sequence of movements designed to get to get you prepped before activity. That kind of physical warm-up is a great foundation for a communication warm-up: start by moving and stretching your physical body. You need to go a bit farther, though, and get your voice and breath involved in order to get you prepared for speaking. Finally, throw in some exercises that engage your enunciators and articulators
In other words: You need to move your body, connect with your breath, make some sound, and get your face and lips ready to go.
The first step to building a warm-up practice is asking yourself (and answering honestly): Do I currently warm up before my communication opportunities? If the answer is no, maybe, or “meh,” you’re not doing enough. Your solution if you’re not warming up enough is easy: Do more than you currently are. If that’s nothing, do something. If you stretch your arms up and do a raspberry with your lips, add a couple more stretches and tongue twisters. If you power pose, add some breathing exercises. If you meditate to relax, try some physical stretches to aid relaxation from a different angle. You can add in pieces over time as you get comfortable with the different kinds of exercises.
The next step is easy: Learn some warm-ups! We’ve got you covered here with free, 30-second to five-minute warm-up videos on our site: www.gktraining.com/warm-ups/. Follow along and learn. There’s also a free PDF filled with easy and fun tongue twisters that you can download. Did I mention they’re free? If that’s not enough for you, there are tons of books you can buy and videos you can watch on how to do warm-ups for different kinds of situations. Just look around and you’ll find tons of examples that suit you. Or ask a friend who’s a performer or athlete and I’m sure they’ll have some warm-ups for you to learn.
If you’ve looked at our videos and read our tongue twister handout by now, you may be saying to yourself “I could never do those, I’d be so embarrassed.” That’s a normal reaction. Warm-ups look and feel a little silly. However, in their seeming silliness lies deep effectiveness. If you warm-up, you WILL feel more prepared, able, and effective. It’s just that simple. How do you overcome your possible embarrassment? Plan ahead. Where will you be giving your talk? How much time will you have to prepare beforehand? What kind of material will you be sharing? The answers to these questions will help you plan what kind of exercises to do, for how long, and where you can fit them in. If you know you’re going to have oodles of time before giving a talk in a big conference room, see if you can get in that room beforehand and do your warm-ups. If you can’t get in that conference room, is there a similar one that is empty that you can reserve or grab? If you have an office, can you shut the blinds and door and do your warm-up there? If no office or conference room is available, can you go into a bathroom stall? Can you use your car?
The good thing about warm-ups is that they’re highly customizable to whatever situation you find yourself in. If you know that you’re going to arrive at your communication location with little to no time before starting, can you block off time in your home or hotel room before you leave? Warm-ups are most effective the closer you can get them to your communication opportunity but are still very useful if you have to do them at home far beforehand. Better some at home than none at all.
You should now have an idea of what a warm-up is, how to build and learn a warm-up that works for you, and how to get over any possible embarrassment when doing a warm-up. Communication is a physical art. The only way to get your physical body ready for communicating is to warm-up before communicating. You can also apply this before you practice. When you warm-up before practicing, you’re building warmed-up muscle memory for your physical presence during the actual communication opportunity. Eventually, when the muscle memory of warming-up and practicing is in your body and you’re suddenly thrown into the deep end to give an impromptu presentation or talk without warming-up, you will have prepared your body as much as possible and set yourself up for success in the physical art of communication.
P.S. The title of this post is a reference to an Oscar Wilde play—The Importance of Being Earnest—that two of our executive coaches (Shawn Fagan and Rebecca Brooksher) are currently performing in at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, MA. Click HERE for more info on the show, and check it out if you’re in the area.