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Breathe Life into Your Words When You Speak
Nancy Daniels, Voice Coach
Something we never think to do in public speaking is to breathe. We never think about our air supply and yet we find we are constantly running out of it as we struggle to get the words out of our mouth.
Without air, you have no voice; and, yet, one of the most common complaints I hear from my clients is that they are breathless in public speaking.
What is fascinating about this predicament, is that if you would allow yourself the ‘luxury’ of breathing before you run out of air, breathlessness would not be a problem. Are you breathless in normal conversation? Your answer is probably No. So why are breathless at the lectern? If you supplement your air supply before running out it when you are speaking to family, friends, and colleagues, why not apply the exact same principle in public speaking?
By focusing more on your breathing and less on your nerves when addressing an audience, you will discover that your breathlessness would be gone. Of course, you are now questioning how to supplement your air supply when you were taught in elementary school to wait until you came to some form of punctuation before taking a breath. That is good advice for 3rd graders and there is a reason that principle is applied at that age; however, as we develop, we gain more control and have what is known as a ‘speaker’s license’ which means you can breathe anywhere you want.
Read the following sentence and take a breath after you see the dynamic marking.
Your idea ►really does work. Actually, the breath is possible if you speak with any amount of color or life in your delivery. Maybe you nodded your head as said those words. If you tend to talk in a monotone, however, this exercise will not work.
Now say the sentence again and pause this time after the word does.
Your idea really does ► work.
Interesting, isn’t it? In normal conversation, you could easily pause after any one of those words and it works. If you treat your audience just as if you were in conversation, you will discover that you can pause almost anywhere and take a breath if you allow yourself to do it. No, you cannot continually pause after every 4 or 5 words because then your delivery would become sing-song. But yes, you can pause much more often than you probably do.
Next time you are scheduled to speak, focus on your breathing and not your nerves, treat your audience as if in conversation, and I guarantee you breathlessness will be no more.
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.
Nancy Daniels Having taught 1,000\'s of people how to find their \'real\' voice for more than 25 years, I can\'t imagine a job more gratifying! To witness the increase in their self-confidence is incredibly rewarding.