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Every Breath You Take: Presentation Breathing Techniques

Whenever you get nervous before a presentation, you’re told to breathe. It sounds like common sense, but has it ever crossed your mind to consider how you breathe? Different ways of breathing can affect your presentation differently.

There’s such a thing called speech breathing, which humans have developed somewhere along our evolution. Speech breathing is a presentation technique that comes from a long line of evolutionary advancement to modern language. Here’s how you can use it to your advantage:

Pre-Speech: Breathe In

Compared to normal breathing, speech breathing is very different. Shallow breaths prove to be ineffective during presentations. Dr. Gary Genard, public speaking trainer and founder of the Genard Method, elaborates on the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing on his site. As its name suggests, your diaphragm is the key component of diaphragmatic breathing.

This happens when the lungs expand and flatten the diaphragm. It’s also the proper way of ‘taking a deep breath’. According to Genard, taking a deep breath before your presentation slows down your heart rate and provides oxygen to your brain, easing nervousness and assisting your thought process.

In-Speech: Breathe Out

How you breathe affects how you communicate with your audience. Using diaphragmatic breathing for your posture involves pushing out your abdominal muscles, keeping you upright. Conversely, starting out with good posture before speaking lessens the strain on the organs vital for your speech.

Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and avoid hunching up before trying out some presentation breathing techniques. Speech coach Jezra Kaye writes in Speak Up for Success the importance of breathing out. Kaye encourages speakers to breathe out and relax the upper part of their torso (chest, mouth, throat, and jaw).

A relaxed demeanor makes you appear more confident and allows you to speak better. Breathing out as you talk also releases the right amount of oxygen needed for a powerful speech, preventing an overly high or low-pitched tone.

Mid-Speech: Relax Your Larynx

Anxious speakers often talk too fast, forgetting to take breathing breaks. In such cases, the presentation ends up sounding like a long run-on sentence. Presenters who speak without breathing wear out their larynx, resulting in a strained tone.

This curtails their rapport and hinders them from relating their message properly. A speaker in a hurry misses key points and fails to engage the audience. Learn how to pace your speech by breathing in between. Pausing also helps emphasize important ideas by giving your listeners time to digest and think them over.


The next time you’re told to breathe for your presentation, don’t dismiss the thought. When done right, it can be beneficial for your public speaking skills. Deep breathing before your presentation helps build confidence.

Stand straight, relax, and establish a connection with your audience. Pausing strategically between your presentation’s main ideas emphasizes their importance and rests your voice. This lets you prepare for the next bout of speaking and expounding that comes after the pause.

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“Breathing for Speech.” Wellcome Collection Blog. February 4, 2013. Accessed October 13,  2015. www.blog.wellcomecollection.org/2013/02/04/breathing-for-speech
Genard, Gary.”Diaphragmatic Breathing: A Key Public Speaking Technique.” The Genard Method. Accessed October 13, 2015. www.genardmethod.com/blog/bid/182073/Diaphragmatic-Breathing-A-Key-Public-Speaking-Technique
Kaye, Jezra. “Public Speaking Tip 22: For Public Speaking Power, Breathe OUT, Not In!” Speak Up For Success. June 18, 2013. Accessed October 13,  2015. www.speakupforsuccess.com/7991/public-speaking-tip-22-breathe-out


Featured Image: “nice breath” by Joana Coccarelli on Flickr.com

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