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!
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To Overcome Stage Fright, Learn Proper Breathing
Today, we’ve mostly forgotten that first important definition of inspiration. So, it's 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 can think on your feet and know how to recover from going blank or a "brain freeze.".
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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, and to know how to speak with presence and charisma, 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 greatly to learn how to be a leader when you speak. And that's when you'll present with the most confidence and influence!
This article was published previously in this space. It is updated here.
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Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in public speaking and overcoming speaking fear. His company, The Genard Method offers live 1:1 Zoom executive coaching and corporate group training worldwide. In 2022 for the ninth 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 Speaking, was named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." His handbook for presenting in video conferences, Speaking Virtually offers strategies and tools for developing virtual presence in online meetings. His latest book is Speak for Leadership: An Executive Speech Coach's Secrets for Developing Leadership Presence. Contact Gary here.
Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash.