Did you know your breath is a powerful public speaking tool? Here's how to speak with confidence using this simple breathing technique.
1. a breathing in, as of air into the lungs; inhaling. 2. an inspiring or being inspired mentally or emotionally. 3. an inspiring influence; any stimulus to creative thought or action (Webster’s New World Dictionary, Second College Edition).
Surprised to learn that the first dictionary definition of “inspiration” has to do with breathing? Yet how appropriate. And how interesting that together, the definitions of this Latin word mean to take air in and then be stimulated into creativity!
Is nervousness an issue for you when you speak? Become a calmer and more dynamic speaker! Download my free cheat sheet, "How to Calm Your Nerves Before Speaking."
To Overcome Stage Fright, Learn Proper Breathing
Yet we’ve mostly forgotten that first important definition of inspiration. It's actually a reminder that we need to take in sufficient oxygen to speak engagingly and creatively. To know how to be a focused and effective presenter in the public arena, in other words, you need to practice proper breathing.
Sufficient breath support will not only focus your concentration; but it will also slow your heart rate as you begin to get enough oxygen. And there's another benefit to good breathing: it provides you with a well-oxygenated brain so you know how to think on your feet while speaking in public.
Still looking for reasons to get in touch with your breathing? If you suffer from stage fright, you're apt to breathe rapidly and shallowly. Apart from the discomfort this creates in you physically and mentally, your audience may notice that you struggle with speech anxiety, lessening their confidence in you and your message.
Here are 10 fast and effective ways to overcome stage fright. For other methods besides breathing to help you conquer speech anxiety, here are the 10 causes that create fear of public speaking and how to overcome them.
How to Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing
To be a speaker who uses breathing to his or her advantage, get in the habit of “belly breathing.” That simply means breathing with the help of your diaphragm (the dome-shaped muscle located horizontally between your lungs and abdomen), rather than with just the upper part of your lungs.
Here’s how to breathe diaphragmatically, or practice calming belly-breathing: Stand at ease, and place your dominant hand on your belly, i.e., at 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-like action going on down there? (If you don't feel too much movement, try lying on your back. The up-and-down belly movement in this position is more evident.)
To practice, stand in front of a mirror, making sure that your belly moves but not your shoulders or chest. When you get in the habit of belly breathing like this, you’ll be constantly giving yourself a full supply of nourishing vital oxygen. The calming and centered frame of mind you put yourself in will also help you learn how to stay fully focused when speaking. And that means you’ll come across as more professional, poised, and present.
This blog was originally published in 2012. It is updated here.
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