Breathing is something that we all take for granted. Yet how well do we utilise the 'breath'?
Athletes are taught to use the breath effectively so as to achieve maximum output. The same is true for speakers. When we're nervous we tend to shallow breathe. Yet if we breathed deeply we would be able to deliver a more powerful presentation.
Breathing helps to relax the muscles and in so doing, oxygen flows to the brain, we can think more clearly and feel more confident about speaking in front of a group of people – whether they be clients or colleagues.
Here are some breathing exercises which will assist you in using your voice effectively in your next presentation.
Control the inhalation
Without a proper amount of air on the intake, you're at risk of running out of air before finishing your sentence. It's especially important to be aware of your breathing when you're nervous or stressed.
During those times muscles tense and breathing becomes shallow. With shallow breathing the lungs don't take in enough air to allow you to reach the end of your sentence which can lead to lack of projection and volume and the inability to be clearly heard.
- Be aware of your posture – stand or sit up straight
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth using your diaphragm not your shoulders
- Inhale between phrases
Control the exhalation
Effective speakers control their exhalation so that they still have breath at the end of their sentences. The breath and voice should work together with the air flowing out in one smooth stream along with your words.
- Increase your lung capacity – practise saying the alphabet on a single exhalation. Strive to say the entire alphabet on a single exhalation with a small amount of air left at the end
- A good ratio of inhalation to exhalation is one to five – for every one second inhalation there is a five second exhalation on which you speak
Fillers are words such as 'um', 'ah', 'like', 'so', 'you know'. These words and phrases 'fill the gap' which can become distracting to the audience. They detract from the speaker's ability to come across as clear, confident and persuasive.
- Pause and breathe – this allows your audience to digest what you're saying.
By practising these exercises on a regular basis you'll be able to use your voice to add impact to your message in your next presentation.