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Who Is in Control at the Lectern -- You or Your Nervousness?

Nancy Daniels, Voice Coach


N
ervousness is wonderful. In fact, I will take that one step further and tell you that nervousness is a blessing. How can it be a blessing, you ask? Because that rush of adrenaline can give you an edge. It can take your presentation to an entirely new level if you learn how to control it.


Articles today talk about eliminating, stopping and ending your nervousness and I disagree. I want you nervous but I want you to learn how to take control of that nervousness.

If you think the ‘greats’ in public speaking are not nervous, then you are wrong. All great performers, actors, musicians and even athletes are nervous but they allow their nervousness to work for them and not against them. They take advantage of that nervous energy, the jitters, the uneasiness in the pit of their stomachs and they put it to good use.

I want you nervous but I want you to learn how to take control of that nervousness.
There are many theories, techniques, habits, and ideas for dealing with nervousness but the best one is to learn to breathe with the support of your diaphragm (a muscular partition separating your chest from your abdomen) and there is a biological reason for it.

Shallow breathing, which is typical of 99% of the population, increases your stress because it does not allow for the elimination of the toxins in your body. Simply put, shallow or lazy breathing increases your stress; thus, shallow or lazy breathing increases your nervousness.

Diaphragmatic breathing, however, which is typical of all other mammals except man, eliminates the toxins in the body thereby reducing stress. [If you doubt this, watch your dog or your cat or a newborn baby breathe when it is lying on its back or on its side. You will see its entire lower torso expand as it inhales.]
All great performers, actors, musicians and even athletes are nervous but they allow their nervousness to work for them and not against them.


For those in the midst of a panic attack, the 1st thing they are taught to do is to breathe. This deep, supported breathing not only allows you to take control of your nervousness but it will also help you relax so that you can concentrate on your words and your delivery and not on your nerves.

To see if you are breathing correctly, stand in front of a mirror minus your shirt or blouse and take a deep breath. Did your shoulders rise? Did you suck in your mid-torso region and throw out your chest? If so, then you are a shallow or lazy breather.

  • Now try this exercise. Standing with your hands under your rib cage, cough. Did you feel that muscle ‘kick out?’ Again with your hands under your rib cage, breathe in through your mouth and take your air all the way down as you expand your diaphragm out – not up but out. If you can accomplish this, you have just taken the 1st step in breathing properly with support. It is truly that simple.

  • Diaphragmatic breathing is normal; it is natural; and, it is healthy. You were born breathing in this fashion but sometime during your childhood development, you stopped this practice and reverted to shallow breathing.
    Diaphragmatic breathing is normal; it is natural; and, it is healthy.


    Make supported breathing a habit and watch what happens the next time you give a presentation or speech. I guarantee you will love the results!





    International Speaker and Voice Specialist, Nancy Daniels, has been involved in voice training since 1977. A graduate of Gettysburg College with a BA in music, she discovered the techniques for improving the sound of the speaking voice while in graduate school at American University in Washington, D.C.

    In addition to her guest speaking engagements, Nancy offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice training and public speaking skills throughout the United States and Canada. For those are unable to work with her directly, there is Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. For more information on voice training, future workshops, and Voicing It!, visit her Voice Dynamic website. http://www.voicedynamic.com





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