Communication is key to becoming a great doctor. Not only because you must be able to effectively communicate with your patients when you do become a professional, but because before you can become a doctor, you’ve got to go through several medical school and residency interviews. A bad interview can sink your chances of acceptance. If you don’t communicate effectively, you may not become a doctor in the first place. This is why it’s so important to perform face and vocal exercises before any interview or presentation.
Let’s set the scene. You’re about to walk into your medical school or residency interview. You have prepared answers to common interview questions, you’ve selected a professional-looking outfit, you look sharp, and you’re ready to rock. You enter the interview and answer your first question… but the interviewer asks you to repeat yourself. They couldn’t hear you because you were mumbling.
You may have scored a perfect 528 on the MCAT and written the best personal statement the admissions committee has ever seen, but it can all come crashing down if you flub your interview. Remember, it’s not just about what you say but how you say it. You can complete hours of interview prep, but if you don’t enunciate and speak your points clearly, you can fall flat on your face on interview day.
In this post, we’ll outline key face and vocal warm ups you can use to ensure you’re as prepared as possible on interview day. These exercises can also be utilized before important events, presentations, and other speaking engagements.
Why You Need to Warm Up Your Face and Vocals
You stretch and warm up before you exercise, right? (And if you don’t, you absolutely should.) Why do you do that? So you don’t injure yourself, strain your muscles, or make a mistake when you’re working out. Stretching and getting your body moving loosens you up, gets your blood flowing, and sets you up for success.
Speaking works the same way, though we often don’t think about it. Singers, actors, and public speakers need to speak clearly and enunciate each vowel and consonant. Their job is to communicate effectively. If you can’t understand an actor or a public speaker, they aren’t doing their job right.
While some people are naturally able to speak with confidence and enthusiasm, people who do so for a living don’t simply “have a gift.” They work for it with steady practice and by utilizing vocal and facial warm ups before they speak.
When you don’t warm up before you speak, you’re more likely to mumble and trip over your words. When you don’t warm up your face, it’s easy to slip into manikin mode; it’s hard to communicate enthusiasm and energy when your face is impassive and you’re mumbling.
Vocal exercises and face warm ups help you speak clearly and look more engaged, which, in turn, helps you appear more present, articulate, and confident.
You may have an immaculate academic record, but if you can’t sell yourself and your achievements in an interview, you won’t find success. Give yourself every advantage you can over your competition by leaving nothing to chance. Before interviewing, presenting research in front of an audience, or doing anything that will require you to be ‘on,’ dedicate a short amount of time to vocal and facial warm ups.
Face Yoga Exercises
While most face yoga tips and videos you find on the internet deal with slowing down the aging process (with somewhat dubious results), face yoga, in this instance, refers to getting your face moving. As a medical student, you know how many muscles there are in the face. And you need to engage every one of them to appear as enthusiastic, present, and confident as possible.
1 | Blinking Eye and Mouth Exercise
For this facial exercise, open up your mouth and eyes as wide as possible like you’ve just seen a ghost. Next, squish your face up in your best impression of a raisin. Get everything all wrinkled and small. Imagine you’ve just bitten into the sourest of lemons. Then stretch your face out again as if the ghost just reappeared. Then bite the lemon again.
Our skin tightens when it’s dry, which tenses up our face, making it easy for us to slip into manikin mode. When our faces aren’t animated, we can seem dull, unfriendly, and apathetic. These are the last impressions you want to leave with your interviewer or audience!
Repeat these actions several times. It will relax the muscles in your face and make you appear more animated. This way, you won’t come off as stiff or robotic during your interview. Instead, you can present your best self; someone who is engaged, energetic, confident, and happy to be there.
2 | Smile and Kiss Exercise
It is essential that you appear friendly, approachable, and professional during your interview, speaking in front of a crowd, or when speaking with a patient. The most effective way to do this? Smile!
Smiling is one of the easiest and most important things you can do to appear more confident and friendly—so count on doing a heck of a lot of smiling on interview day. But first, you need to warm up!
Start by smiling as wide as possible. Stretch your mouth out from side to side as far as you can. Then press your lips together in a big kiss or your best impression of a fish. Repeat this action a couple dozen times to relax the muscles around your cheeks and lips. Doing so will brighten up your face and make you appear more animated.
This exercise will also help your smile to look less forced because, as we all know, sometimes it’s hard to provide a genuine-looking smile when we’re stressed or uncomfortable. Interview day will be challenging, and public speaking is high on everyone’s list of fears. Give yourself every advantage by warming up that luminescent smile of yours.
1 | What I Want is a Proper Cup of Coffee…
The “proper cup of coffee” exercise has a few different steps. It will require you to make some funny faces and sounds, so if you’re feeling shy, you may want to practice this exercise in private. You can do this in your hotel room to wake up and engage your face before leaving, in the car on your way to your interview, or in a bathroom or other private area.
It starts like this. In your clearest voice and standing with proper posture, with your shoulders back and your chest out, say the following phrase:
“What I want is a proper cup of coffee made in a proper copper coffee pot. Tin coffee pots, steel coffee pots, they’re no good to me. If I can’t have a proper cup of coffee made in a proper copper coffee pot, I’ll have a cup of tea.”
Focus on speaking slowly while clearly enunciating each word. Chew the words like they’re a big wad of gum. This exercise won’t work if you’re mumbling or barely moving your mouth. Go big or go home.
Next, stick your tongue out as far as it will go and say the full phrase again. Keep your tongue out there as you try your best to say the words. Focus on speaking the words as clearly as possible. This will require you to get your mouth moving. Do not let your tongue be an obstacle.
Next, wrap your lower lip around your lower teeth, and your upper lip around your upper teeth so that both of your lips are inside your mouth. Your teeth should not be visible at all. Repeat the phrase again, speaking as clearly as possible. Get that mouth moving! It will definitely sound silly, but do your best to speak as clearly as you can with your lips as the obstacles this time.
Once you’re done with that, say the phrase normally one more time through. Doesn’t that feel better? Your mouth and voice will feel more engaged and open and you’ll be able to enunciate the words more clearly.
2 | Unique New York
Unique New York is a tongue twister that will trip you up if you try to say it too fast. Repeat the phrase “unique New York” several times, as articulately as you can.
Don’t rush it. As soon as you begin to mess up, compose yourself and slow down again. Focus on differentiating the harsh sounds of the ‘q’ and ‘k.’ The ‘n’ in unique must not blend together with the ‘N’ in New York. Not even a little bit. Start slow at first, and continue to build up speed.
3 | Red Leather, Yellow Leather
If you say “red leather, yellow leather” too quickly, you’re sure to blend the consonants and vowels together until the words get all tied up and it sounds like you’re speaking gibberish.
Repeat the phrase while focusing on clearly enunciating each syllable. Start slow, and then speed up. If you notice that you’re blending the sounds together, take a deep breath, and start again. Be patient, and stay focused.
4 | She Sells Seashells by the Sea Shore
You probably remember this one from childhood. Obviously, enunciating each of the ‘s’ sounds while still saying each word clearly is a seriously scintillating challenge.
As with any tongue twister, start slow. Don’t rush through it and make mistakes. The key to utilizing tongue twisters to warm up is saying each phrase as articulately as possible. Start by putting imaginary periods between each individual word. Once again, open your mouth up wide and really chew each word.
Repeating this exercise is useless if you’re not moving your jaw, tongue, and lips. Exaggerate the movements of your mouth. Once you feel like you’re hitting every consonant, say the phrase as naturally as possible. You will be able to navigate each tricky ‘s’ sound smoothly. And if not, repeat the exercise until you can.
Gain Every Possible Edge
Speaking clearly and articulately communicates confidence. While tongue twisters are a fun game, it’s important to remember that they serve a real purpose. It may feel silly or childish to repeat tongue twisters over and over again, but there’s nothing silly about gaining every possible edge over your competition.
Don’t let your fear of looking childish or silly keep you from performing vocal and facial warm ups. What’s more foolish: warming up for an important interview or presentation that could determine your future in medicine or letting your fear that you might look silly keep you from excelling?
Remember, you are up against thousands of applicants with very similar qualifications and dreams as your own. Employ every advantage you can.
Speaking of advantages: Mock interviews provide an opportunity to put your interview skills to the test in an environment and format that simulates interview day.
Med School Insiders offers mock interviews with former interviewers who have served on admissions committees and interviewed hundreds of applicants. Each session involves a mock interview followed by structured feedback and deep insight from people who have been on both sides of the medical school interview.
Check out our library of resources covering the entire interview process, including a comprehensive Medical School Interview Guide that details common interview questions, preparation advice, and mistakes to avoid.