Breathlessness is not just a problem for those who are involved in some form of strenuous activity. It is also a problem for many novice public speakers. Add nervousness to the picture and you have the perfect recipe for losing control of your delivery: as you try to catch up on your diminishing air supply, you probably notice that your pitch is rising higher and higher and your speed is getting faster and faster.
One of the most important things you should do when speaking (or exercising) is to breathe with the support of your diaphragm, also known as deep breathing. For the athlete, breathing deeply oxygenates the muscles so they can work harder, stronger and faster. For the public speaker, diaphragmatic breathing oxygenates the brain, allowing for the elimination of toxins in the blood. The result is a decrease in your panic or stress. Essentially, breathing with support gives you control over that wonderful rush of adrenaline.
Nervousness in public speaking is actually a good thing because your adrenaline makes you sharper, more alert, and more focused. Without control over it, however, you are unable to place yourself in this ‘fight mode.’ Instead, you resort to the status of fleeing or freezing! Neither is beneficial at the lectern.
It is this controlling of your nervous energy which enables you to harness your speed. When I work with my clients, they are able to control their speed as well as their voice because of the breathing. Have you ever noticed a quiver in your voice when you are nervous? By using your chest cavity in talking, you will find that your voice no longer shakes and no longer rises in pitch.
The reason these two factors – your breathing and the use of your chest cavity – will eliminate these speech and voice difficulties is because you will be relying less on your throat and vocal cords to produce your sound. If you are typical of 99% of the population, you have depended on your throat and voice box as your primary resonators. Of course your mouth and nasal cavities also play an important role in the production of voiced sound but there is no doubt that the pharynx and larynx bear the brunt of the work. By implementing your chest cavity as your primary resonator, you will immediately reduce the stress on the vocal cords, thereby eliminating the quiver and the rise in pitch.
Breathlessness will no longer be a problem because you will learn to supplement your balloon of air before you run out of it. There is no secret to the idea of supplementing your air supply. You do it in normal conversation all the time and it looks like this:
3. take a quick breath;
4. continue on.
Learn to control your voice and you will have the upper hand over your speed, your breathlessness, and your nervousness.
Visit Nancy’s Voice Training Website and watch as she describes the best means of controlling nervousness in any form of public speaking.