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The Most Important Thing You Should Do in Public Speaking

What is the most important thing you should do at the lectern, in the boardroom, or at a sales presentation?

  • Yes, you must know your material.
  • Yes, you must have a thoughtful, well-planned script.
  • Yes, you must use vocal variety, facial expression, and body language in your delivery.
  • Yes, you must be yourself, first and foremost.

While all of the above components of dynamic presentation skills are vital, the most important thing that you should do is something many speakers never do, never think to do, and do not know how to do properly.


It is called breathing - specifically, breathing with the support of your diaphragm.

If you look at the fundamental, without air there is no voice; and, without voice, there is no speech or presentation. What often happens to those who do not present on a regular basis is that they approach their audience with such trepidation that their air supply is spent before they even begin.

Nervousness is excellent; however, shallow or lazy breathing, which is typical of 99% of the population, actually increases your nervousness because it does not allow for the elimination of the toxins in the body. So when you approach the lectern or the boardroom with your adrenaline pumping, you experience an uncontrollable fear that is actually exaggerated because of the shallowness of your breath.

I received an interesting email from one of my clients named Judith, telling me that she had just finished Session 2 of my DVD training on voice improvement. These were her words:

“First thing I realized is that I don't breathe well at all. Interesting to discover that the way I breathe is quite stressful, almost a panting that I simply didn't realize until following your directions. And, I've had immediate results when called upon at a recent Toastmasters meeting. I was in control of my nervousness, and better able to get out my thoughts. Yeah!"

Her words are so common among those who discover the value of the breath. Upon learning how to breathe properly, you will experience benefits that have nothing to do with your voice or presentation skills. You may sleep better at night; you may lower your blood pressure; you may discover better endurance; but, most definitely, you will notice that you are alleviating more of the stress in your life because you are eliminating the toxins in your body.

If you would like to know whether you are breathing properly or not, stand in front of a mirror, take a very big breath and watch your chest and your shoulders. Did you throw out your shoulders, lift up your chest and suck in your gut? If you did, then you are definitely breathing wrong.

When you breathe with support, your chest and your shoulders will not move, just the expansion of your mid-torso region allowing for the outward and downward movement of your diaphragm, the muscular partition separating your chest from your abdomen. If you would like to feel that muscle, place your hands under your rib cage and cough. Did you feel that muscle kick out?

Once you learn to breathe with proper support, you will discover that you are in control of your nervousness and not the other way around. You can then concentrate on your material and your delivery; and, incidentally, breathlessness will be no more.

In the future, let your nervousness work for you, not against you. That extra rush of adrenaline can take your presentation to a whole new level. The secret, however, lies in your breathing!


P.S. If you would like to read more about diaphragmatic breathing and controlling nervousness in public speaking, click here.




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