The one thing that many new speakers don’t think about and never have enough of is something that has a negative impact on their delivery skills. It is actually very simple, basic, and a necessity. Without it, there are no words; thus, no message. It is called breathing.
Because of nervousness, many speakers experience breathlessness which is even more exaggerated because of their nervous state: they don’t think about supplementing their air supply. When they finally realize that they are spent, they gasp for a huge breath of air which fills only the upper portion of their chest. Because of this type of shallow or lazy breathing, that gasp of air actually increases their tension.
Diaphragmatic breathing, which most people do not do, allows your body to rid itself of the toxins in your blood. This is why it is one of the fundamentals of both yoga and meditation as well as the first thing you should do in a panic attack. Shallow breathing, on the other hand, increases your stress because it does not allow for the elimination of those toxins and actually increases your level of stress or your state of nervousness.
What is important to understand is that without air, you have no voice. Therefore, the best thing you can do when speaking is to interrupt your speech or presentation, pause, and inhale just a bit of air to keep your balloon filled. Most people do this in normal conversation without giving it a second thought. If you can treat your audience in this fashion – just as if you were talking to them in your living room, for example – you will be amazed at how much better you feel and how much easier it is to deliver your speech or presentation.
Waiting until you are totally spent of oxygen is definitely not the answer. Learn to breathe before you run out of air and not after and I guarantee your breathlessness will be gone.
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 Nancy's Voice Training Website and watch as she describes the best means of controlling nervousness in any form of public speaking.