One of the most discomfiting occurrences when you're speaking in public is to have your voice tighten up and come out as a high-pitched squeak or just give up and go away. It's so off-putting that it makes a person want to jettison the entire business of speaking in public. Perhaps the thought of being a mime becomes very attractive indeed.
This is probably the most frequent question from my students:
What can I do to prepare myself so that when I'm nervous I can still breathe?
First it's helpful to be aware of how you breathe normally. To ascertain this, sit on a straight chair.
1. Put one hand on your upper chest and the other hand on your belly.
2. Take a normal breath, and make these observations: Which hand moved? Did your belly go out or in?
You're doing well if both hands moved OUT, or if your belly moved OUT. What you want to avoid is having your belly suck in and your chest move out. That's probably the most common style of breathing, and it is something you definitely want to change, for the sake of your body's health as well as the strength of your voice.
Although breathing is a natural body function, breathing for proper singing or speaking requires training and strengthening the muscles of your diaphragm, back, and belly. The following exercise should be done daily:
1. Sit on a straight chair. Feet flat on the floor. Spine absolutely straight, but not tense. (Feel as though you have a cord running straight up from your tailbone to the top of your head, gently and effortlessly keeping you in that straight position. )
2. Put your hands on your belly, fingers spread and just touching in the center slightly below your navel.
3. Take a great big breath right into your belly.
4. Let your lower jaw drop a bit and say a quiet “HA" as you pull in your belly with your hands, slowly as you can comfortably.
Do this several times, always being aware of any tension that might occur. (Allow your tongue to lie inert on the bottom of your mouth, tip barely touching the teeth. )
Now repeat the first three steps of the exercise, but substitute 4Aand later 4B, for #4.
4A. With your hands, pull your belly in pretty fast, and let out the air with a loud “sssss" sound. Then do the same thing, but with only one hand, and with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other side of your throat, feel to be sure there's no tension during the “sssss".
As your control develops you'll be able to sustain your breath for longer and longer periods. Try this next one.
4B. When you feel ready, release the breath with a soft hum. Any note in the middle of your register. Avoid the lowest notes.
Simple as they are, these little exercises can make your entire life easier. They feed your physical and mental body with health-giving oxygen. You'll find you're more relaxed and positive in your everyday activities.
Carole McMichaels, Author: “Fearless Public Speaking: How to Get Rid of Your Stage Fright and Prepare and Deliver a Winning Presentation", invites you to join her free newsletter on speaking in public. You may also get your free report, “7 Valuable Tips on Writing a Mind-Gripping Speech". http://www.getridofpublicspeakingfears.com