Breathing for Better Public Speaking
I love the line in “Lord of the Rings” where Gimli, Aragorn and Legolas
have been running for some time and Gimli says to himself – “Breathe, just
keep breathing – that’s the key”. It’s a statement of the obvious but with
public speaking, as with running, there is a style of breathing that will
help your performance.
You need to take in more oxygen than you would do with your normal style of breathing. This will settle your nerves but also, and more importantly, it will provide you extra voice power, voice control and voice projection. The end result of these exercises is to be able to strengthen your muscles so that you can hold your windpipe’s column of air as it presses against your vocal chords in the same way as successful singers do.
The Exercise Routine
Standing upright, place your hands against your rib cage with the fingers just touching. Breathe in slowly and deeply so that your fingers are forced apart. Hold your breathe for as long as you can comfortably then breathe out slowly and evenly.
Try this about 20 times a day – whenever you need a break rather than all at
once. We want it to become second nature as a breathing method rather than an exercise regime. When you begin to notice an improvement in the time it takes you to breathe out, start counting the time it takes to breathe out.
You can start by counting to five and gradually extend the counting until
you get to 20 without feeling too much discomfort.
Now you have developed a breathing pattern to use when you are talking in
public. But be warned – there is a wrong way to breathe which will actually
make you more tense and therefore nervous!The wrong way is called shallow
breathing or “clavicular” breathing because your collarbones and shoulders
are raised as opposed to your chest being expanded. The resulting tension
in your neck and throat muscles will make you feel more anxious or nervous
– and that’s not what we want is it?
So get started on this easy way to improve your breathing style so that your voice will be powerful, projected and controlled.