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Deep breathing technique for public speakingemail: info@thevoicecoach.be

Deep breathing technique for public speaking

If you want to work on your voice, you should start by working on your breathing technique. When we speak, all we actually do is push air through our vocal chords. The air makes our vocal chords vibrate, which creates the sound of our voice. So in order for you to be in control of your voice, you actually need to be in control of your breath. That is great, because there is an easy way we can learn to be more in control of our breath – the deep breathing technique. Once you know how to breathe properly, you can use it to have a stronger voice AND calm your nerves at the same time.

When we are stressed – and public speaking usually is stressful – we tend to inhale more than we exhale. Our heart is racing and we keep breathing in, which actually makes us even more nervous. So what we can consciously do is BREATHE OUT! That is by the way the most important part of our breathing technique – to exhale.

Basic deep breathing technique: the deep breathing technique works like this: you breathe in and push your abdomen out. It's as if you filled a balloon in your belly and then pushed out the air from there. So you breathe in through your nose, filling your belly with air – and then out through your mouth, slightly pushing your belly in. Exhaling slowly and gradually. When you are alone you can form the sound “ssss” while you breathe out as this helps you to create a steady flow of air. When you try this, don't force anything. It shouldn't be an uncomfortable movement. It should (eventually) feel comfortable and relaxing.

How and when to practice:
You can either practice the breathing technique standing in front of a mirror and pay attention to not lifting your shoulders or chest as you breathe in. Or you can practice it lying down, putting a book on your belly. Whenever you breathe in, the book should rise up and when you breathe out, it should sink back down.

You can practice this technique basically anywhere anytime. I do suggest in the beginning though, that you try it out at home first, so you know what it is supposed to look and feel like. And then once you are comfortable with it, you can practice it everywhere. In the supermarket, in the car, on the bus, in your office. Your goal is not to ALWAYS breathe like this from now on, only in the situations you need to relax, rehearse a speech and/or use your voice in front of an audience.

How to incorporate it into public speaking:
When you are doing a presentation, I definitely recommend practicing the technique as much as possible before and during your speech. You can start in the morning when brushing your teeth, then when you drive to the venue or office. Then as you get prepared for your speech and then definitely the moments before you actually speak. You can use the preparation breathing exercise during the last moments before your speech, which is usually the most stressful time.

Preparation Breathing Exercise:
As you are waiting for your turn to speak, you fully concentrate on your breathing. If you are sitting, you concentrate on the weight of your body in your chair, the floor under your feet and just breathe out for as long as you can. If you are standing, you just concentrate on the weight of your body on your feet and breathe out for as long as you can. Also pay attention to relaxing your shoulders. You don't need to focus on anything topic-related anymore at this point. All you need to concentrate on is your breath. So as you are conscious of your body, breathe into your belly and slowly and gradually breathe out. Now as someone announces your name, you:
  • breathe in as you get up
  • breathe out as you walk to the podium
  • breathe in as you reach the place where you will be standing for your speech
  • breathe out again one last time
  • breathe in and speak
The order doesn't really matter, you could also start with breathing out as you stand up. Just remember one thing: When in doubt, breathe out! Breathing out is actually much more important to focus on, as the inhaling just happens anyway, because we are nervous.

I find that focusing on your breathing is very useful in any stressful situation. It's a very practical coincidence that it also helps you to improve the use of your voice.

I hope these tips were useful. If you would like to get more tips like these or tried them out, please let me know. You can also subscribe to my newsletter, like my facebook page or read my other blog posts on tips about voice training and feeling confident as a public speaker. You can even join one of my workshops or sign up for individual coaching. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sonja Nannan




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