There is no doubt that for many novice speakers, breathlessness is an annoying problem. It goes hand-in-hand with a voice that rises in pitch and a speed that goes faster and faster. None of these ‘qualities’ are beneficial in public speaking. |
Obviously, without air there is no voice. The difficulty for many speakers is that they find their supply of air depleting, so they speed up their sentence in order to try to finish their thought before being totally spent of oxygen. In the process, the pitch of the voice continues to rise in their frantic attempt to get it done. Does this sound familiar?
In most cases, people do not have the same difficulties in normal conversation; therefore, we can attribute this lack of control over the voice to being in a nervous state. The answer is to breathe; but, a better answer is to learn to breathe with the support of your diaphragm.
If you are like the vast majority of the population (99%), you are presently breathing using only the upper portion of your chest. This is known as shallow, lazy or upper chest breathing. The problem with this type of breathing is that it actually increases your stress. It is a scientific fact that shallow breathing does not allow for the elimination of toxins in your blood, toxins which are responsible to increasing stress, tension, and even panic attacks.
On the other hand, diaphragmatic breathing, also known as deep, supported breathing, releases the toxins thereby eliminating the stress. This is why diaphragmatic breathing is a fundamental principal of yoga and meditation. And, this is why I advocate supported breathing while addressing an audience.
Personally, I want you nervous. That rush of adrenaline can be most beneficial to your delivery. The secret, however, is learning how to control it which is best accomplished by breathing with support. If your shallow breathing is contributing to your stress or anxiety, then the best way to gain the upper hand is to change the way you breathe.
You will discover that once you have the upper hand, you will be able to control your speed and your pitch as well. It is amazing what something so simple as a diaphragmatic breath can do when you are facing an audience. By the way, just in case you think diaphragmatic breathing is not normal, consider this. Every mammal on earth (except the most intelligent of the mammals) breathes with the support the diaphragm as well as every opera singer, every newborn baby, and James Earl Jones to boot!
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. For more information on upcoming workshops, visit Nancy's Voice Training Workshops.
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