By Founder Jen Oleniczak Brown
Meetings often suck. Don’t be confused, I love meeting new people and planning and figuring out action items, but a lot of time we end up rehashing what we did/do and set up plans for things that require more meetings. When I sit in for companies, observing communication styles, I often think the worst part of meetings for other people is that whole speaking part.
Think about it: You sit around and either wait for a chance to speak or you spend a large part of the time working up the nerve to speak. And what happens when you do? You might ramble or trip over words. You’re not completely thinking about everything that’s coming out of your mouth. You finish, and you’re either stressed about what you said or regretting that you didn’t say enough.
If this sounds like you, you probably aren’t doing the one thing that WILL help you speak in a meeting: Warming up.
Think about it — do you run 13.1 miles without warming up? No. Well, why would you speak without warming up the muscles in your mouth? Our mouths contain 10 muscles and it takes up to 100 muscles to speak! *
*I told this to a client I’m working with this afternoon and she literally laughed and said “That’s why I hate it so much.”
So how do you start to fix this? First off, know that no solution is an absolute. This is ONE way to get better at speaking in a meeting, specifically how to trip over words less and pay attention to the words coming out of your mouth. Much like running and getting in shape, it’s a process. Second, admit the amount of time you have before a meeting. In reality, you have minutes.
The quick way to warm up in minutes before a meeting: tongue twisters.
Think about it — people trip over words because they are running their mouths or speaking before they think. You have to concentrate before you say a tongue twister. You have to think about the words to get the correct — you have to PAY ATTENTION to what’s coming out of your mouth. Also, tongue twisters TWIST YOUR TONGUE. They are meant to trip you up, because they flex different areas of your mouth.
These are a few I give clients when they are specifically working on warming up quickly:
Red leather, yellow leather.
The lips, the teeth, the tip of the tongue, the tip of the tongue, the teeth, the lips.
Betty Botter bought a bit of bitter batter. (Say the t’s as t’s — not d’s)
Prior to a meeting, head into the bathroom, outside or sit at your desk. Say them out loud, three times each, slowly, and over-enunciate. Maybe you spit a little when you say these — that’s ok! You don’t run the same way you warm up — all you are doing is activating these areas.
Then head into your meeting and see what happens. Remember, this isn’t a fix-all (nothing is), but chances are, you’ll be a bit more cognizant of the words coming out of your mouth AND trip over your words less. Good luck, and enjoy that next meeting!