The Power of Breath

I was watching a friend deliver a presentation. While I had never seen her present before, I knew this woman to be talented, poised, and always prepared. She stood up in front of the 45 people in the room, and I noticed that something was off. Her voice was shaky, and I started to feel nervous for her. As she continued her voice got more and more out of her control. She was spiraling. I found myself whispering, “just breathe; take a breath,” as if I could use mind control to help her. When she sat back down she said to me, “I need to take a Xanax next time.” I encouraged her, “It wasn’t Xanax you needed. You just needed some oxygen.”

We see this kind of thing all the time (so often we made a video). In fact, I find myself hard pressed to think of a coaching engagement in which breathing did NOT come up.

3 Tips to Harness the Power of Your Breath in Public Speaking

I am passionate about the power of breath. It not only makes for good public speaking, but it also helps a person feel grounded and confident in any area of life. Allow me to share a three quick tips to harness the power of your own breath.

  • Relax your stomach. You have to let those muscles relax in order to allow the air to really fill that space.
  • Feel the breath in your back and your ribs. You are 3-dimensional! When you breathe you can fill up in every direction.
  • Breathe more often. Try this: Take a piece of text and force yourself to take a full breath at the end of each sentence. It might feel strange or slow, but record yourself. I bet if you listen back you will hear how clear your message is.

Let’s come back to my friend. Was her presentation ruined because of her voice? No. The audience was on her side. The room wanted her to be successful— most audiences want a speaker to do well and root for them when they are struggling. But, her lack of breath made her feel awful. And while an audience may root for you when you struggle, they can only then half concentrate on your message.

So, practice breathing. Sounds silly, but it really works. Yoga and meditation classes can help, but so can laying on your back and taking 20 deep breaths while focusing on filling up your stomach and chest. The time you spend on your breath will pay off in a myriad of ways.

What are your breathing tips? Comment on this post. I would love to hear them!