Tongue twisters are often thought of simply as a fun way to pass the time on a long car ride with children, for example. But they’re actually an articulation exercise that helps you learn to speak clearly.
Working with your mouth via tongue twisters will stretch and strengthen the speaking muscles, improving your verbal dexterity. This has long-term effects on clarity and enunciation. Practicing (out loud) a few on the day of a presentation will warm your mouth up so you’re ready to speak and command the room when you take the stage. It only takes a few minutes.
Why achieving this objective can be hard (or what common mistake people make when trying): Warming up our physical tools is something that’s frequently overlooked when we’re preparing to present. We’re worried about statistics, the size of the fonts on our slides, and even what to wear. But how we speak isn’t often on people’s radar, and is thus often omitted from the ‘pre-presentation checklist’. But if you’re not able to speak clearly, your entire message is lost.
Using tongue twisters to improve your enunciation
Get a list of tongue twisters. Here are some.
- Unique New York
- Stupid superstition
- How can a clam cram in a clean cream can?
- Red lorry, yellow lorry
- Toy boat
- Rubber baby buggy bumpers
- Loopy lizards lying lazily aloft a little lane of logs
- I wish to wash my Irish wristwatch
Choose just one to practice at a time. Read the phrase slowly out loud.
Pronounce the beginning and end of each word forcefully. As if you’re speaking to someone hard of hearing across the room.
Move your mouth even more than necessary.
If you can handle repeatedly mouthing “rubber baby buggy bumpers” to yourself in a corner of the lobby, giving a half-decent presentation will seem easy by comparison
In combination, the practice beforehand and on the day will give your voice greater confidence. Your pronunciation and projection will also improve, and this exercise is also great at settling nerves (if you can handle repeatedly mouthing “rubber baby buggy bumpers” to yourself in a corner of the lobby, giving a half-decent presentation will seem easy by comparison)
Articulation and resonation
The quality of your speech is determined by two factors. One is articulation, and the second is resonation. With tongue twisters, you’re addressing the articulation, which is focused on the tongue, lips, teeth, and palate.
Resonators are the spaces in our body that produce resonance and make our voices heard. Those with a ‘nasal’ voice resonate in their nose, those with a deep booming voice resonate in their chest. To produce good resonance (and get that ‘radio voice’) you need to learn to breathe properly.
Possible ways to improve your resonance: join a choir, take a couple of singing lessons, or even attend a yoga or mindfulness class. All of these activities have breath and resonance as key elements, even if their objectives differ.