Colorful in Person But a Monotone at the Lectern?

When I consider the thousands of people with whom I’ve worked over the years, it is fascinating to see how many of them lose their ‘color’ when they stand at the lectern to deliver a speech or presentation. In normal conversation, these people are animated, emotional, alive. At the lectern, however, they:

• briefly glimpse their notes;
• look up with fear in their eyes;
• open their mouth to speak and pray that something will come out;
• something does come out but they are unable to control their speed; and,
• talk with little or no expression, hoping to get it over with as quickly as possible.

The cause is nervousness.


I love nervousness – that marvelous rush of adrenaline which can lift your presentation to a whole new level. However, if the above ‘symptoms’ sound like you, then your nervousness is working against you. When that happens, it is impossible for your emotions – the color, the life, the animation – to be expressed. Simply put, your nervousness is in control and not you.

Recently I read an article in which the writer said that in order to control your nervousness, try deep breathing before you walk up to the lectern. That is certainly good advice; however, better advice would be to continue the deep breathing throughout the entire delivery. Make diaphragmatic breathing a habit and you will discover a control that you never knew possible as well as an end to breathlessness.

Successful speakers (as well as performers, musicians, & athletes) allow their nervousness to work for them and the really good ones understand the value of the breath.

Watch this brief video clip in which I discuss the value of breathing for public speaking.

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