Monday Morning Quick Tip: Breathe


Dealing with stage fright, speaking loudly enough to be heard, and making yourself understood are all key pieces to delivering a good speech. And they all have one skill in common that is essential to making them work: Good Breathing. Learning how to breathe properly is necessary for becoming a good public speaker.

I was once delivering a monologue in a play, the delivery was intended to be stilted and loud. I went for it with gusto. About three-quarters of the way through the speech, I felt myself running out of breath. Rather than stopping for a bit to suck in some much-needed oxygen, I kept right on shouting. I had to push so hard to get sound out from my now-empty lungs that I strained the muscles in my ribcage.

Proper breathing starts with the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that sits beneath your ribcage. It’s the muscle that spasms when you hiccup. That’s where you want to concentrate when you’re learning to breathe properly. Often, we get a little lazy, and breathe into our upper chest. That’s a habit you want to break. Practice breathing down into your lower lungs. Your stomach should expand as you inhale.

Breathe in through your nose as you count to 3, and then exhale through your mouth. To make sure that you’re breathing as deeply as you need to, place one hand on your upper chest, and one hand on your stomach. You want to make sure, as you breathe in, that you can feel your stomach expanding. This is the proper breathing technique that you’ll want to cultivate for speaking.

Breathing will lower your anxiety, and increase your volume. It will help you slow down, and make you more easily understood. Some stutterers report that breathing deeply, and beginning to speak after they’ve begun to exhale helps them to minimize their stuttering. Breathing properly would’ve saved me from a good week of discomfort from strained muscles. So, work on breathing into your diaphragm, and developing a rhythm that keeps your breath circulating as you speak. Don’t be afraid to slow down and pause for breath as you speak.

And just keep breathing.