Through my many years of speaking, teaching and training, I have found that by concentrating on the moment you can move ‘above’ the stress that you may be experiencing at a given time and deliver a dynamic speech or presentation. Most actors, musicians, athletes and public speakers as well are able to rise to the occasion no matter what the problems in their personal or professional lives.
Their secret is focus, being able to store their stress away, temporarily, and concentrate their energy on their immediate situation. I take it one step further however. I have found that breathing with the support of my diaphragm makes focusing even easier because deep supported breathing eliminates the toxins in my body thereby reducing stress.
When my mother died in 2003, it was decided that I would give the eulogy; and, the minister insisted on standing behind me should I need ‘support’. I knew that I wouldn’t but I didn’t say anything. While my eyes may have filled with tears a couple of times, I was in control during the eulogy and had the audience both laughing and crying throughout.
Ten days prior I had given a 40-minute presentation at a NJAWBO meeting, having learned an hour earlier that my mother would die before week’s end.
How did I get through that presentation? How was I able to concentrate, knowing my mother would not last but 4 or 5 more days? Was I so cold that I did not care that she was dying? No. I loved my mother dearly and think about her every day. Instead of dwelling on my emotional pain, however, I focused on the job ahead of me. And it worked. It was one of the best presentations I have ever given.
It is amazing what the mind can do when given a chance. I have sometimes held seminars or workshops lasting several hours and, upon closing, discovered that my lower back was in pain or that my shoes were too tight. If you allow your focus (and in my case that means breathing as well) to take control of the occasion, it will work in your favor.
The same principles apply in controlling your nervousness in public speaking. Nervousness creates stress; shallow or lazy breathing increases stress because it does not allow the body to rid itself of its toxins. By breathing with the support of the diaphragm, however, you are then able to eliminate the toxins. This elimination of toxins not only relaxes the body but also allows you to focus on the moment and not on your nerves.
By learning to focus your energy in the right direction and applying the techniques of diaphragmatic breathing, you will be able to concentrate on what needs to be accomplished no matter how bad the stress in your life.
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels is President of Voice Dynamic as well as Selfgrowth's Official Guide to Public Speaking. Holding private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills, she also offers Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement.
For more information on nervousness and presentation skills, click here for her 8-minute presentation, The 5 Characteristics of Dynamic Public Speakers