The Gifted Speaker -- I've Forgotten How to Breathe

03/24/2014 12:14 pm ET | Updated May 24, 2014

Off to the Races
And you're off. You've opened your speech, you've thanked your host, you've introduced your topic and right at the end of this run-on sentence you realize, you are out of air!

What Happened?
Excitement, anxiety, or even just the heightened activity in the room can set us up to rush into our speech. It can make us start a sentence without taking a breath. Sometimes we don't even know we've been racing through our speech. Next thing you know we are at the quarter point and we are gasping for air, struggling to continue. Most of us recognize when we've launched ourselves like a rocket. Our mouths grow dry and we start to hyperventilate just a little bit. The pace of our speech has made us anxious. We get butterflies and often, at least for me, our voices rise in pitch and we start to squeak like Minnie Mouse. All of a sudden, we need more water; then we need more air. This launching into our topic can be extremely disorienting. It can make us feel like we've pretty much bombed this speech. But the speech itself is still salvageable.

I've rushed into my speech and now I'm out of air.

Hit the reset button.

Pause -- it's as simple as that. As you reach for your bottle of water this time, take a breath first. You can turn to look at your slide. You can walk to the other side of the stage.

Smile at your audience and breathe. You can look as if you are simply going to elaborate; that you must think of the best possible way to say the next thing you are going to say. What you are really doing is allowing everyone including yourself to catch up and catch a breath.

These are pause buttons. In the time that it looks like you are pausing for emphasis you are going back to your breathing.

Take a big inhale. Expand your stomach. Exhale silently but slowly.


Simple but effective, even if your audience recognizes that's you've in essence restarted, they'll be grateful. Your letting them reset as well. Breathing is contagious. If you take a deep breath I will take a deep breath and so will everyone in the room.