7.5: Pre-presentation Warm-ups

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Often we feel liked condemned prisoners when approaching a presentation. We wait our turn with trepidation, sitting still and imaging all the things that could possibly go wrong. Our bodies react by stiffening up.

Forgot to count


Instructions for students:
Find a quiet place outside the presentation room (it could even be in the toilet!).Do as many of the following exercises as you can. They will help you transform fear and its accompanying physical tightness and tension into confidence and presence.

Wake up your eyes

  • Hold your index finger in front of your eyes and move it around, keeping your eyes focused on the tip of the finger.
  • Move your finger at random to the limits of your visual field.
  • Do this as quickly as you can without moving your head. Practice for 30 seconds.
  • This exercise will wake up your eyes. When they are alive, bright and clearly focused, so are you.

Change your face

Make as many different faces as you can – sad, funny, angry, afraid, stupid, surprised.

  • Make each expression dramatic and larger than life. Include your eyes as a part of it.
  • Make a very small, tight face and then make as big a face as you can.
  • Open your eyes and mouth wide.
  • Hold each face for about 10 seconds, relaxing for a moment in between. Do this 5 to 10 times.
  • Changing your face in this way helps you to relax and feel more comfortable about using a range of expressions with your audience.

Don’t forget to breathe!

Become aware of how you are breathing. Simply notice the movement of your breathing for 60 seconds without trying to change it.

  • Then take a deep breath making sure to push your stomach out as you do so.
  • Follow this by a full exhalation pulling your diaphragm in to push all the air out of your lungs. Do this five times.
  • When you are inhaling, imaging that you are like a sumo wrestler – solid, stable and connected to the earth. A sumo wrestler is very concentrated, balanced and aware of his surroundings. This is a good feeling to have as a presenter.
  • To enhance the effectiveness of this exercise, make a deep sighing ”ahhhh” sound as you exhale.

This exercise will help you feel both calm and energized.

Open your voice

  • Try yawning, sighing and humming.
  • Sing vowel sounds in ascending and descending scales like an opera singer doing warms up.
  • Find the highest and the lowest notes you can sing.
  • Sing or hum your current favorite song.
  • You can even try singing the first few minutes of your presentation!
  • This exercise will help prevent you from choking up and feeling blocked. It also will enhance the quality, range and resonance of your voice.

Get your blood moving

  • Shake your hands and feet vigorously to get of any tension you are holding there. Open and close your hands and work your fingers. Hands can be a very useful visual aid for presenters but they need to be supple to work effectively.
  • Using both hands, knead the top of your shoulders, the back of your neck and the top of your head. Gently massage your forehead, temples, jaw and cheeks. Pull on your ears.
  • Use both hands to massage your legs vigorously up and down from your thighs to your ankles. Rub your abdomen in a clockwise direction and then reach your arms behind you and massage your lower back.

You can also run in a place, dance, jump up and down or practice your favorite stretching exercise – whatever works best to get your blood moving around your body.

As you practice these exercises you will find your fear and tension transforming into energy, enthusiasm and excitement.


Presence Check-list

Express  >  Change your face
Breathe  >  Don’t forget to breathe!
Look  >  Wake up your eyes
Listen  >  Open your voice
Feel  >  Get your blood moving




At the start, before you begin to speak, take a few deep breaths without heaving your chest or raising your shoulders. Count slowly to 5.

Look around and take notice of your surroundings. Make contact with your audience and allow them to make contact with them.

In a small group, make eye contact with each person very briefly before moving on.

With a large audience, make eye contact with one or two people, look for a familiar face or someone appearing to smile.

At the start of your presentation, ask yourself: ”What do I observe right now?” Hear the answers in your head as you continue looking around.

Take time to wait for that special moment when everything seems ready for your energy and contribution.


Keep up your energy and vary your:

  • Quality of expression
  • Loudness of voice
  • Face and body language
  • Timing.


End your presentation in some memorable way, leaving both you and the audience
on a high note.

The 3 E’s

Remember to support your presentation with culturally appropriate expressions of:

  • Energy
  • Enthusiasm
  • Excitement

< Back to 7.4
The Importance of Body Language
        Next to 7.6 >
Give a bad presentation