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Take a breath: 5 ways breathing can help you confidently speak in public

yoga-in-atlantaAs a long-time student of yoga, I have come to appreciate the quiet helper that is there for us in a variety of situations if we care to notice – our own breath. We often take it for granted, but if we learn to pay attention to it and work with it consciously, it can help us regulate stress, boost confidence and increase impact of our speech.

When you are about to pronounce the first word of your speech, do you do it on an inhale or exhale? Have you noticed or just guessed your answer? Now, go ahead and pretend you are about to speak. First, exhale and then start speaking. Then, inhale and start speaking. Do you notice the difference? When you take a full breath and fill your chest with air before speaking, the sound traveling on the waves of air as you exhale is more resonant and reaches farther. There are many other reasons why public speakers may want to tap into the power of breath.

  1. You brain needs oxygen. Around 20% of all oxygen that enters the body goes to the brain. Many people are shallow breathers, especially if they are sitting at their desks in a slouched position. Taking deep breaths before and during your speech may improve the focus and clarity of thinking. Studies suggest that we yawn when we need to bring more air and blood flow to the brain to cool it and make it more focused. Now that you know why we yawn, don’t take it personally when your audience members start yawning – their brains may just need more oxygen.
  2. Deep breathing helps to release stress. Dissolve your pre-speech jitters with a breathing pattern. There are various patterns that can help you regulate your physical and mental states by counting the duration of inhales and exhales. For example, you can inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four. Notice how you fill up your belly, then your chest as you take a deep breath. The goal is to stop racing thoughts and calm the nerves.
  3. Breathing regulates your speaking tempo. You may have experienced it or heard someone else speak really fast and appear out of breath. It is not a comfortable state to be in or to listen to because it leaves us agitated. Natural breathing helps you slow down and take pauses that are needed for your words to sink in. Think of silence as the white space in a speech. The white space in a painting provides contrast so that other elements become prominent. Similarly, pauses are needed to increase the impact of your words.
  4. Breathing can replace your filler words. Nobody plans those “ums” and “uhs” in their speech, but they pop up nonetheless when we lose our train of thought or get briefly distracted by something else. To regroup, try taking a breath or two instead of filling the space, and then move on to the next point.
  5. Breathing varies your pitch. You don’t want to sound monotonous. Breathing can help you raise or lower you pitch depending on your message, character or a line in a dialogue. Here is a fun experiment…Take a deep breath and try speaking in a really low voice. Impossible, right? Now, exhale fully and try to speak in a high-pitched voice. That’s hard too. Now, you know how to use your inhales and exhales to vary the pitch naturally and effectively.

How do you use breathing techniques in your public speaking?

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By | 2016-10-18T13:38:20+00:00 October 18th, 2016|Communication, Public Speaking|0 Comments

Using BYOD in teaching and public speaking

presentationI recently returned from the University of Iowa where we held a 4-day workshop within our 2016 STARTALK grant program “Bridging the Gap: STARTALK, Teachers and High Tech.” This live workshop was a culmination of a four-week online training of teachers of Russian from various colleges and schools in the US on the use of instructional technology in distance learning, as well as teaching and leading lessons in a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) format where students can utilize their smartphones and tablets during their language lessons.

As a result of their learning and collaboration, the teachers created innovative learning objects that used technology to engage students through gamified scenarios and simulations and expand learning beyond traditional classrooms. We were inspired by the teachers’ creativity, flexibility and willingness to experiment with new approaches to education.

Teachers and speakers have a lot of common goals and tools when it comes to imparting their knowledge and message. In my future posts, I hope to share some of my own takeaways and reflections on how the use of multimedia and BYOD approaches can enhance speeches and presentations and provide fresh, new ways to engage the audience.

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By | 2016-08-12T21:09:19+00:00 August 12th, 2016|Communication, Learning, Public Speaking|0 Comments

Your fear of pubic speaking may be influenced by who you choose to look at when you speak

Our brains are wired to pay more attention to negative clues and threats in the emotions-caricaturesenvironment. This is also true in the context of public speaking, especially for speakers who may experience social anxiety.

In a recent study, participants – some low in social anxiety, some high – were asked to give a three-minute impromptu speech over Skype to an audience shown onscreen. What the participants didn’t know is that the audience was made up of actors who produced facial expressions and body movements on purpose.  In fact, their positive (smiles and nods), negative (frowns and yawns) or neutral expressions had been recorded earlier and  were shown to the participants as they spoke. The researchers tracked the participants’ eye movements as they gave their speeches, recorded their physical anxiety via sweating and heart rate, and asked them to rate how anxious they felt.

It turned out that speakers with higher social anxiety showed a preference for looking at negative audience members, which fueled their anxiety even more.  In contrast, people with low social anxiety chose to look at positive, engaged audience members.

To calm your nerves, it may be worthwhile to pick out some friendly faces in the audience and deliberately pause there longer as your eyes scan the room.

Better yet, meet some of your audience members in advance of your speech, perhaps, by greeting them as they enter the room.  You will feel more support from the audience that way.

Virtual platforms and networks offer another way to get to know your audience prior to your presentation.

Love is an infinite energy of connection

Love is an infinite energy of connection
Among people, animals, Nature and the Universe.
Love transforms fear and loneliness
And gives us the courage to care.
May the question “What would Love do?”
Guide our minds to action
To expand the energy of Love
Over hatred and indifference.
May it open our hearts to the power of self-love in the face of judgment
And to the acceptance of others, regardless of our differences.
Love is the only thing that sustains our inner beauty
And shines its light into the world.
Breathe and live Love.

My daughter and I doing yoga and making heart shapes.
via Instagram @brainalchemist

Transform your fear of public speaking and test your presentation skills

Do you feel nervous when you have to speak in public?  Does your heart start beating faster? Do you get butterflies in your stomach? Does your throat get dry or palms – sweaty? The trick to overcoming the fear of public speaking is not to fight your anxiety but to transform it into energy that can propel you to perform better. According to research,  you can boost your performance in high-stake  situations when you interpret the signs of anxiety as excitement and focus on things that can energize your even more.  Make your fear facilitating instead of debilitating.  Here are a few things you can focus on to generate excitement:

  • your passion about the topic;
  • the importance of your message;
  • the interests, pains and concerns of your audience;
  • the connection with your audience;
  • the wisdom, care and support you can get from the audience;
  • the quality of your content;
  • the depth of your expertise;
  • your readiness and willingness to share and co-create with your audience.

You get the idea…While the eyes are on you (by the way, you are competing with the phone screens), you are not the most important person in the room. Your audience members are. Your flop is their pain, and your win is their gain.

Play can both relax and focus the brain to help you learn better. Click the image below and play the Thumbs-up / Thumbs-down game developed by our Bookphoria team to test your presentation skills and learn how to improve them.

Presentation Skills Game

Multimedia solutions, such as brief video explainers, games, scenarios, and animations, can make both live and virtual presentations more engaging while briefly shifting the focus from you as a speaker to allow you to regroup and recharge. Want our opinion on what kind of multimedia solution you could create? Need to develop a brain-captivating presentation or signature talk? I’ll mentor you for free.
Click here to set up a free rapid fire mentorship session with me.