Belly Breathing for Public Speakers

Belly Breathing. Yes, it really is called that, and when I put a recent post on Facebook about teaching ‘belly breathing’ to some public speakers — talk about an earful! Some didn’t really believe it exists, some immediately thought of belly dancing, and then it even launched into belly laughing (which you could do if you see a room full of people working on their belly breathing).

For speakers, actors, relaxation, yoga or just about anyone. Belly breathing is another way to say ‘diaphragmatic breathing’ where you breathe from your diaphragm. For public speakers and actors (even news anchors), this helps you ‘project’ your voice in a big room so your audience can hear you. It’s also used in meditation, yoga, and for other relaxation exercises.

Why was I teaching this? As part of my consulting business, and as part of a class at GoGirl Academy, I teach public presentation. Raise your hand if you are terrified of public speaking! You’re not alone. Most people would rather jump into a vat of boiling oil than get up in front of others and speak. But most likely, you’ll have to do it at some point in your life – whether it’s a presentation at work, or an actual speech. The other night, I was working with some young public speakers (teenage and pre-teen) with a bunch of adults in the room. How intimidating is that? So — I had everybody (including adults) stand up to do ‘belly breathing,’ break the ice, and get them to relax — maybe even crack a smile.

How to belly breathe. It’s not hard. Simply put your hand on your belly, inhale through your nose, and instead of expanding your lungs (and have your shoulders go up), make sure you feel your stomach go out. Exhale, repeat. You’re using more of your diaphragm this way. Some say we should breathe like this all the time. If you want to relax a little more, add a shoulder bounce. Shrug your shoulders and relax while belly breathing. And to relax your vocal chords, say “Ahhhh” as you exhale. Do this a few times with the entire room doing it, and you can see why it might bring a smile to your face.

Young speakers nail it. And the best part, the young speakers then proceeded to give their speeches. How could they be intimidated by all these adults after watching them ‘belly breathe?” They nailed their presentations.

Margo Myers, Principal, Margo Myers Communications


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