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A Fresh Breath of Air: Calming Your Presentation Nerves

When panic strikes, how do you respond? Inexperienced public speakers often feel jittery before and during their performance on stage. They fixate on what might go wrong in the near future, forgetting how this anxiety affects them in the present.

Everybody has a different way of dealing with pressures, whether at home or at work. Thankfully, what you need is pretty simple: oxygen. If you’re one of those presenters who frequently run out of air or stutter, all you need to do is breathe.

The Importance of Breathing

Breathing is an essential part of all our lives. Without oxygen, it would be impossible for us to survive. Have you noticed how difficult it is to speak when you’re nervous and gasping for air?

Stress tricks your body into thinking you don’t have enough oxygen, causing you to gasp for air frequently. While oxygen is an important human need, too much oxygen is actually hazardous to your health.

An abundance of oxygen is then misrepresented as a serious health problem, like a heart attack. This triggers panic and, at worst, shock. This is why in public speaking, proper breathing is of utmost importance. It normalizes your condition, allowing you to think clearly while also improving your vocal projection.

Invest in Belly Breaths

Belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, allows your lungs to expand so you can take in an optimal amount of air for each breathing cycle. Most people only use their upper chest for respiration since it requires less effort.

What they don’t know is that diaphragmatic breathing has the added benefit of releasing tension. In addition, taking a deep breath lessens your anxiety because it removes panic-causing blood toxins from your body. Public speaking trainer, Gary Genard, enumerates the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing, some of which involve slowing your heart rate to calm you down, and circulating oxygen to the brain to help you think better.

Once you’ve cleared your head, you can finally think of ways to engage the audience and organize your thoughts. Try taking a deep breath whenever you get a mental block in the middle of a presentation. Instead of stuttering with speech fillers, invest in  belly breaths instead.

Time Your Breathing

Aside from preparing for your pitch, you need efficient practice. Advanced planning helps you prepare for the worst, and gives you the chance to adjust accordingly. Give your script one whole read through, as if presenting live, and take note of the parts where you tend to stumble. This allows you to pinpoint what part of your speech requires proper breathing.

Note where you should breathe in and when you should breathe out to help yourself get through a tough part of your presentation.

One Last Thing…

Optimized breathing will help you look more confident, credible, and convincing. A combination of efficient diaphragmatic breathing and sufficient preparation also provides extra confidence and lessens mistakes when presenting to crowds.

Do this constantly and expect to engage your audience more naturally after a fresh breath of air.


Genard, Gary. “Diaphragmatic Breathing: A Key Public Speaking Technique.” The Genard Method. June 20, 2013. www.genardmethod.com
“How to Cope With Anxiety Breathing Difficulties.” CalmClinic. www.calmclinic.com


Featured Image: Balance” by Kevin Dinkel from flickr.com

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