When it comes to public speaking, most people are aware that it is man’s greatest fear. Thus, it is not selective in who it affects nor how it affects those who stand at the lectern or at the head of the boardroom table to give that all-important presentation. There is no doubt that practice can be one of your best tools in conquering your fear; but, there is something else that most people are unaware of that can allow you to take your nervousness and let it work for you and not against you.
Simply put, it is learning to breathe with the support of your diaphragm. Right now, you probably think that you are breathing properly so I will ask you to take this test.
Go stand in front of a mirror without your shirt or blouse on and take a deep breath (a biggie). Did your shoulders rise? Did you throw out your chest? Did you suck in your gut?
If your answer is yes to any of these questions, then you are not breathing properly: you are part of the majority of the population who are renowned for being shallow or lazy breathers. Don’t let this news upset you. 99% of the population is doing it wrong.
While all babies are born breathing correctly with the support of the diaphragm, sometime during development in the prepubescent years, the child will revert to shallow breathing. It is a medical fact. We imitate our loved ones as we grow; therefore, if mom and dad are shallow breathers, so too will the child copy that technique.
[Incidentally, all mammals breathe with the support of the diaphragm. Watch your cat or your dog the next time it is lying on its side or on its back. You will see your pet taking the air all the way down to its lower torso area. That is deep, supported breathing.]
Why is diaphragmatic breathing the most important thing you can do to control your nervousness? Because it relaxes your body. Shallow or lazy breathing actually increases your stress because it does not allow for the elimination of the toxins in the body. Instead, it increases those toxins which increases your stress.
Learn to breathe with support and you will be able to lower your stress and take control your nervousness. I love nervousness. It is that rush of adrenaline that can move your presentation to a whole new level. My advice is not to try to eliminate it or stop it but instead to allow it to work in your favor. (By the way, if you are not nervous, if you heart isn’t being faster as you approach your audience, then there is a problem.)
Learn to breathe and take control of your nervousness, then watch what happens during your next presentation. And remember – you are not alone. From the most experienced speakers to the least, nervousness isn’t choosey. It affects all of us in one way or another.
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, group and corporate training in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. Visit her website at Voice Dynamic and watch as Nancy describes the best means of controlling nervousness in any form of public speaking.
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