Today I’d like to talk about grounding because it is in my opinion, one of the two most important physical skills you can learn related to public speaking and vocal development. Now, grounding can mean a lot of different things to different people, but when I refer to grounding, I simply mean this, it is the ability to establish a firm foundation and to settle. That’s it.
Now, if you’ve watched my other videos I am sure you’ve noticed that I talk about grounding all the time. If I am going to talk about strengthening the voice, we’ll talk about grounding. If I am going to talk about deepening the voice, we’ll talk about grounding. If I am going to talk about managing nervous energy, again, we’ll end up talking about grounding. So this is a skill that will pay off for you at many levels.
The openness that I talk about all the time is in particular I believe an ability to open downward. When you can feel the ground under you, your body will tend to relax down onto that firm support. Your breath then will tend to drop into your body. Your voice will tend to get fuller and deeper, and you’ll start to feel as though you’re speaking with your entire being.
If you’re not grounded, if you don’t feel that firm support under you, your body will tend to hold itself away from the ground, your breath will get high, your voice will get shallow, and pretty soon you’re going to be all up in your head preoccupied with your thoughts.
The first thing I think that we should pay attention to is simply this, you want to have both feet on the ground. Not standing on one foot, not with your weight back on your heels or up on the balls of your feet, not rocking, not bouncing, not pacing around, standing on both feet. That’s the first thing, and that’s not so hard.
The second thing that you should notice is whether or not your knees are relaxed, whether there’s this feeling of looseness or softness in your knees. We don’t want the knees gripped and locked and pushed all the way back. We want them relaxed. Of course they don’t need to be so bent that your thighs start working over time, but somewhere in between. There’s a balance. They’re not locked, gripped and pushed all the way back, but relaxed, soft, loose. You want to feel as if you have an open connection through your knees to the ground.
Now find a piece of text that you would enjoy reading. It could be a poem. It could be an excerpt from a speech. It could be a paragraph from a book that inspires you, something that you would have an emotional connection to. I want you to take this piece of text and read it out loud, but first I want you to bend your knees noticeably, almost as though you were getting down into a skiers crouch, but not leaning forward or backward. You are just allowing yourself to sink right down onto the ground, so you have this feeling of having the ground under you, this feeling of being down on the ground. I want you to speak this text out loud with this heightened awareness of being on the ground and notice what difference it makes.
You might notice that your voice feels a bit stronger, or perhaps it’ll feel a little deeper as though it was coming from inside of you. You might notice that the words flow a little more easily. It’s very personal. I’m not sure what you’ll discover, but just try this, not paying attention to your delivery or not paying attention to the words so much, but really just speaking with this heightened awareness of being down on the ground.
Now, obviously you’re not going to give a presentation or a speech in the skiers crouch with your knees very bent. This is just a practice. This is one way that we reinforce our ability to feel the ground under us, to be aware of having a firm foundation, and once we know that feeling then of course you can go back to standing fully upright and still maintain your feeling of grounding.
There are other exercises that you could try to enhance your grounding. You might just do a Google search and see what else you find. What I’ve suggested here, these wouldn’t be the only ways.
But let me just recap. You want to make sure you are standing on both feet .You want your weight equally distributed on your feet. You want to feel that your knees are relaxed and open, not locked and gripped, and then you want to practice reading some text with your knees very bent and this sensation of yourself getting down onto the ground and see where that takes you.
Grounding is something that you can practice at any moment during the day whenever you are on your feet, brushing your teeth, standing in the checkout line. At any moment you can ask yourself, “What is my connection to the ground right now? Am I aware of having that firm foundation and allowing my body to settle down onto that support? Or am I completely cut off from the ground?”
And then just continue doing whatever you were doing, maybe you were standing on a corner waiting for a light to change, or perhaps you were talking to your colleagues in the office. No one needs to know that you are doing your practice. You’re practicing being grounded.
There are, in my opinion, two physical skills that are most critical to public speaking and vocal development; one of them is grounding and the other one is breathing. So, when I’m evaluating a speaker, the first two things I look for would be, “Does she have her feet on the ground?” and “Is she breathing?” Because if those two things aren’t happening, anything else I would suggest would just be superficial details.
Grounding will pay off for you way out of proportion to the amount of effort it actually takes. How hard is it to feel your feet on the ground, but I’ve seen people’s voice get stronger, deeper, clearer. I’ve seen fast talkers slow down, nervous speakers feel more confident just from grounding.
If you would like to learn some more basic concepts related to vocal development, public speaking and presentation, I urge you to go to voiceandspeech.com and download the free report The Sound of Success.