Two of my public speaking coaching clients recently struggled with the same problem: Breathlessness while holding a speech resp. presentation. I taught them the basics of how to overcome the struggle, but the challenge would remain… So I did some research and also asked a fellow public speaking coach if he had heard of a solution I was not aware of.
This article sums up my top five strategies on how to eliminate your breathlessness and – through that – enjoy your time on stage.
Prepare, visualize, relax
I wrote an article about this topic a while ago. If you have not read it yet, have a look at it here.
Use words that consist out of maximum two syllables: Instead of saying “beau-ti-ful-ly” (4 syllables), say “nice-ly” (2 syllables). Instead of “a-ma-zing” (3 syllables) use “great” (1 syllable).
Also draft sentences with maximum two commas. Avoid phrases like: “The tall girl, who wore a beautiful, long, green dress, and whose body shape reminded me of an hourglass, fascinated everyone in the ballroom.” You can easily divide this horrible formulation into three short, pleasant sentences.
Yes, I know… you will need to write down your speech to correct these mistakes. This is one of the primary reasons why I want you to express your thoughts on paper.
The power of breaks
Some individuals seem to dislike using breaks during their speeches. One second of silence feels like ten minutes, that’s why those speakers prepfer to rush from one sentence to the other. Such kind of speaking style is not fun for any audience… Been there. Done that.
Implementing powerful breaks is learnable. The best way of training it is the following: Count to “one” in your mind after every sentence. (1) Count to three – or even five – after every paragraph. (1) Can you feel the difference? (1) I can. (1… 2… 3…)
Well-timed breaks add more drama – or impact – to your speech. Observe international speakers! They use pauses or breaks before resp. after certain sentences. Why? Either to show that what they are going to say is important; or because they want you to understand that the last bit was essential.
Make the conscious, active decision to speak slower; and to enjoy your speech. That will make a difference.
Another great trick is training your speech while using a metronome. By the way, a pleasant speaking rate equates to approximately 125 – 160 words per minute.
The diaphragmatic breathing technique
This is one of the most powerful life hacks, which helped me – not only with my public speaking – but also in my everyday life: Diaphragmatic breathing.
As always in life, everything is learnable. Two years ago, I was not able to speak in full sentences without running out of breath or using tons of fillers in my speeches. Today, I made public speaking my profession.