Is Breathlessness in Public Speaking a Problem for You?

Posted on

One of the most common complaints I hear from my students and clients is lack of air in public speaking. This is indeed a problem because without air, there is no voice. And, without voice, there is no speech or presentation.

Breathlessness can easily ‘;cure’; by supplementing your air supply while speaking. You do this in normal conversation without ever giving it a second thought. At the lectern, however, you still believe what your 2nd grade teacher said in reading out loud, "Do not take a breath until you come to some form of punctuation."

That was fine for 2nd grade and there was a good reason for that advice: to keep you from taking a breath after each word as you read. As your sentences grew longer with each passing year, however, you were still under the belief you were not allowed to breathe until you came to a comma, a period, a colon, or a semi-colon. That is incorrect.

We have what is known as a speaker’;s license in which you can breathe almost anywhere you want as long as you have expression or color in your voice, your face and your body language.

Practice saying the sentence below, pausing where you see the karat.

What a great job ^ you did.

Now say the sentence again and pause after the word what as if you were deep in thought. You can actually pause after any one of those words. If you speak in a monotone, however, this does not work. You must have some expression to pull this off.

Next time you are in conversation, take note of when you breathe. More than likely, you interrupt your sentences to take a breath. The same thing should happen in public speaking. Instead of waiting until you are completely out of air, interrupt your sentence as you speak and supplement your air supply which I liken to a balloon.

The idea is to keep the balloon inflated and only take in small amounts of air while speaking, keeping your balloon filled. This is much more effective than deflating your balloon, thereby taking in huge quantities of much needed air. The latter will create additional tension; whereas, the former technique (which again you do in normal conversation without giving it a thought) will help keep you more relaxed.

There is absolutely no reason for breathlessness in public speaking if you will take my advice and supplement your air supply before you run out if – not after!