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Speak for Success!

"Be a voice not an echo." - Albert Einstein

How to Breathe to Stay Calm, Focused and Confident

How to breathe to stay calm, focused, and confident.

Want to improve your calmness and focus for public speaking? Here's how to breathe to stay calm, focused, and confident.

Do you get nervous when you speak in public? How about when meeting important people, or when a lot is riding on how you come across to others?

Situations like these are a challenge to people the world over. Yet nothing is more exciting than speaking passionately on something you believe in deeply. High-profile talks and even remarks have changed history, inspired millions, created instant superstars, altered individual lives forever, and rallied entire nations to action.

Want a fast way to get in The Zone to speak successfully? Grab my essential cheat sheet, "How to Calm Your Nerves Before Speaking."

Even on an everyday level, getting your ideas across confidently and with maximum focus will help you achieve your goals and those of your company or organization. So how can you make sure you're centered, in-the-moment, and up to the task?

Speaking of focus: Be a speaker who commands attention! Get my Free cheat sheet, "10 Ways to Stay Fully Focused When Speaking."

Why Public Speaking Is Easier Than You Think

So speaking in a way that accomplishes these important goals must be difficult, right?

Actually, it's relatively easy. And with practice and experience, sharing your thoughts with audiences large and small can be immensely satisfying. Stage fright can be a significant hurdle, of course; but even gaining confidence as a speaker is less painful than you might imagine.

Beat speech jitters once and for all! Download my Free cheat sheet, "10 Fast and Effective Ways to Overcome Stage Fright."

In fact, there's a simple skill that can boost your confidence while contributing hugely to your speaking success. It's so mundane and obvious that you may be ignoring it completely. So here's the amazing secret to more confident and dynamic public speaking: breathe.

Learn how to breathe for public speaking to know how to be an effective speaker.

Learning How to Breathe for Public Speaking

"Well, I'm already doing that!" I can hear you thinking; "And I'm still nervous!"

It's true that what's called "breathing for life" doesn't help you much in public performances. Vegetative breathing like that is a more or less autonomic response that doesn't require effort. Breathing for speech, however, is different. For one thing, when speaking to an audience, you need more oxygen to project sound outward. You also need to lengthen your exhalation, since speech depends upon controlled outward breath.

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Equally important, you have to unlearn the habit of breathing shallowly. Vocalized sound requires you to learn to breathe diaphragmatically or "belly breathe." The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that flattens out when the lungs above it expand. That flattening pushes out your abdominal muscles—which is why your belly moves outward when you inhale.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a bellows-like action that allows your lungs to expand fully while helping to produce a full reservoir of air. That's the level of oxygen you need to produce strong and resonant speech—the kind that has the sound of authority.

Here's more on speaking with power: my Free Tips and Tricks Guide, "The Voice of Authority: How to Sound Like a Leader."  Download it now!

How to Breathe Diaphragmatically 

Here's how to breathe diaphragmatically or belly-breathe: Stand at ease, with your dominant hand on your belly, i.e., the place that goes in and out most noticeably when you breathe. That's your diaphragmatic area. Take relaxed, medium-deep breaths. Feel the bellows action down there? You should, easily.  Watch the video below to see diaphragmatic breathing in action.


There are some other very positive effects from using this humble but amazing tool of voice production. When you combine it with practical speech techniques, for instance, you'll begin to understand the vital skill of using your voice to convince others. 

Here's more on the vocal skills you need: my "5 Key Tools of Vocal Dynamics." Use that link to the Free cheat sheet and acquire them now!

To give you a handy summary, here are six benefits of using your diaphragm to breathe well. Together, they go far beyond the simple production of sound. These benefits help create credibility, authority, and believability in you as a speaker—all attributes you need for public speaking success.

Six Benefits of Diaphragmatic Breathing

  1. Slows your heart rate and calms you physically.
  2. Provides oxygen to your brain.
  3. Aids your stance and appearance, avoiding a "caved in" look.
  4. Creates the sound of authority.
  5. Supports sound to the end of the sentence, where the important words come.
  6. You appear confident and in control (rather than gasping for breath).

So, in the order of the list above, diaphragmatic breathing will: (1) Reduce your nervousness, (2) keep you sharp and mentally present, and (3) help you appear prepared and professional. It will also (4) make your arguments credible and persuasive while you (5) "punch" the important words and phrases that drive your story. Finally, it (6) gives the impression that you're a practiced speaker who's completely in control.

But don't take my word for it. Listen to one of the greatest poets in our language. "And the heart must pause to breathe," wrote Lord Byron.


Key takeaways from this blog:

  • Proper breathing is amazing in its ability to strengthen your presence.
  • Breathing for speech requires you to "belly breathe."
  • Diaphragmatic breathing oxygenates your brain and keeps you in control.
  • A voice that's well supported by breath has the sound of authority.
  • Important words often come at the end of the sentence and need breath!
This article was published previously and is updated here by the author.
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Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in public speaking training and overcoming speaking fear. His company, Boston-based The Genard Method offers live 1:1 Zoom executive coaching  and corporate group training worldwide. In 2021 for the eighth consecutive year, Gary has been ranked by Global Gurus as One of the World’s Top 30 Communication Professionals. He is the author of the Amazon Best-Seller How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speakingwas named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." His latest book is The Online Meetings Handbook, now available at The Genard Method and at Amazon. To know more about TGM's services, Contact Gary here

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