One of the most common complaints I hear from my clients is that they run out of air in public speaking. And, not surprisingly, breathlessness at the lectern often goes hand in hand with nervousness.
Let’s look at the picture in its entirety. Nervousness does not cause breathlessness. It only exaggerates it. Simply put, breathlessness is caused by lack of breathing.
When you stand at the lectern to deliver a speech or a presentation, what is the first thing you do?
- Open your mouth and speak;
- Open your mouth, take a breath, and speak;
- Regard your audience, open your mouth, take a breath, and then begin to speak.
Chances are you do #1; it would be better to do #2; but, it would be ideal to do #3.
Because of nervousness, many people often walk onto that podium or up to that lectern and begin speaking before their legs are even in place with no regard for acknowledging their audience. Not only are they not breathing properly, but at the lectern, most people never even think to breathe. They wait until they are totally out of air and then they audibly inhale, trying to catch up on their air supply. What results is a cat and mouse game of constant catch up.
The problem lies in waiting until you are totally out of air before inhaling. When I work with clients or in my video training, I teach people to breathe before they run out of air. It is called supplementing your air supply. Think of your air as a balloon. The secret is to keep replenishing that balloon – keep the balloon inflated and don’t allow it to deflate.
You are allowed to take a breath almost anywhere in your speech. We do this in normal conversation and don’t think twice about it. My advice is to talk to your audience in the same manner.
Look at the following sentence:
I would rather go to the game ● than watch it on television. You can easily take a breath where you see the bullet; however, you could have taken a breath after any of those words if you have any expression in your delivery. Try it. It works.
So the next time you stand to give a speech or make a presentation, acknowledge your audience first, take a breath, begin speaking and then supplement that balloon so that your air supply is never depleted.