What You Need to Do in Public Speaking That You May Not Be Doing

Posted on Posted in Breathlessness

Do you know the #1 thing most novice speakers never think to do when delivering a presentation? It never crosses their mind and yet it is the one thing they are in desperate need of throughout their talk. And, once they lose it, they are in a constant race to catch up on it.

No, I am not talking about your train of thought, your words, your ideas, your speed or any other technique to help in your delivery. I am talking about what you need to take in – physically – in order to support your spoken words. It is called air. More to the point, it deals with breathing, something we never think to do and yet, when it comes to our air supply, it is something we never have enough of!

Playing ‘cat and mouse’ with your air supply is most definitely one of the first steps in exacerbating your nervousness. Your lack of air means that you are gasping for breath which places your body in a stage of panic. Thus, the less air your body has, the greater the increase in your level of nervousness. Taking in huge amounts of air to fill the void, however, is not the answer. Learning how to supplement your air supply is.

When standing at the lectern, we are under the mistaken belief that we are not allowed to breathe until we come to some form of punctuation. That is wrong. In normal conversation, do you ever wait until you come to the end of your sentence to take a breath? For most people, the answer is no. We interrupt our sentences continually to breathe. My question to you is, if you supplement your air supply during normal conversation, why not do the exact same thing during your speech or presentation?

In the sentence below, try reading it and taking a breath after the word possibly. Now try it again and breathe after the word five. This time, take a breath after the word I.

I couldn’t possibly run five miles.

Admittedly, if you speak in a monotone, breathing after any of those words doesn’t work; however, if you speak with expression – color, life, emotion – it will sound natural. (If you found this little exercise difficult, you might want to consider working on being more colorful in your delivery.)

Next time you are planning to give a speech or presentation, try breathing before you run out of air. You will be surprised at how much easier your delivery will be when breathless is no longer in question.


For more information on voice and breathing, visit my Voice Training Services page.