Breath leadership 4: Using breathing to help you control the room, tigers or no tigers

So far in this series we have looked at how you breathe in response to the stress of public speaking together with techniques to help you be more confident when speaking. Also how controlling your breathing helps build your audience’s confidence in you.

How about using your breathing to also help you control the conversation, control the room?

Firstly, a recap of your journey so far:

  • You’ve recognised that when you stand up to speak at your meeting, or walk out to the front of the room to speak, even though your brain still thinks you are in danger of being a tasty lunchtime snack for a passing sabre tooth tiger, this is not going to happen. This is several hundred thousand years on. There are no tigers in the room
  • You have practised taking a good, deep breath when you walk to the front of the room. Taking a breath. Before. You. Say. A .word
  • You recognise this is helping to build your confidence in speaking, also building your audience’s confidence in you
  • You have practised breathing. Not just breathing, but deep breathing. Really deep breathing.
  • You have grown accustomed to the control this gives you over the pace of your delivery. Of the deeper, richer, more authoritative voice you now have thanks to diaphragmatic breathing
  • You have grown accustomed to how your audience now feel more confident in you from the outset. More relaxed. More willing to listen to you rather than feeling anxious on your behalf
  • You delight in how your audience find you easier to understand, easier on the ear, more comfortable to listen to. How they were more able to listen, more able to take on board, more able to comprehend you

Thanks to simply taking a good breath, you are now delivering that good, firm, warm, confident handshake. A strong first impression that sets the scene for the rest of your presentation.

Now go a step further.

Here’s the scenario.

You are in your meeting. The conversation is getting a little heated, a little fractious. You are asked a question / asked to respond to a point.

You are on the ‘phone. Similarly the temperature is beginning to rise, the voices with it.

You have two choices at this point:

  1. Go with the flow. Keep it moving. Fan the flames OR
  2. Take control

Remember that moment of control when you took a breath before speaking? How it helped capture your audience’s attention? How it helped you control the pace of your delivery?

Do the same at this point in the conversation. It is your moment to speak, so take advantage of that moment to take a moment. Take a breath to ease off the pace of the conversation, ease the tone of your voice down by a few notches.

Take control of the conversation; take control of the room.

Yet all you did was take a breath.

Want to explore more? Let’s talk, whether that’s on LinkedIn, email or a good old-fashioned conversation.

Email                     : ges.ray@speakinginpublic.info

Tel:                         : 0794 108 3722

Twitter                 : @gesspeaking

LinkedIn               : http://www.linkedin.com/in/gesray

Facebook            : https://www.facebook.com/ges.ray

Websites             : www.speakperformance.online

: www.speakinginpublic.info

Breath Leadership 3: breathing on your audience…

So, what effect does taking a good breath have on you? Perhaps more importantly, what effect does it have on your audience?

For you as the speaker, this is what happens when you start with a good breath:

When you breathe deeply, you are making fuller use of your diaphragm, which is a dome-shaped muscle separating your chest from your abdomen. Not surprisingly, this is known as abdominal (or diaphragmatic) breathing. In itself this is more relaxing than emergency-mode breathing into the upper chest that is often part of the fight-or-flight response to stressful situations.

When you breathe deeply, with your diaphragm helping you to relax a fraction, your voice relaxes. Your voice drops a fraction as well, a few percentage points deeper, a few percentage points more authoritative.

When you breathe deeply, the pace of your delivery also drops a fraction. Taking the edge off the speed of your speaking has a double-whammy effect; as well as helping your audience better listen to you, better comprehend what you are saying, you also give yourself more time. Time to find the right words, time to deliver a more comprehensive message rather than the garbled torrent of words from a rushed opening.

Note the emphasis on fractions and degrees here. This is about the principle of marginal gains, not dramatic changes or Damascene revelations. By tweaking the performance of each element of your speaking, with practice and rehearsal you build your skills, build yourself into a more effective speaker.

So now return to your audience, still in their seats, eagerly awaiting your pearls of wisdom. See what effect your deep breath has had on them. Feedback on you as the speaker could include:

•             They felt more confident in you from the outset, more relaxed, more willing to listen to you rather than feeling anxious on your behalf

Wow! Loved your presentation!

•             You were easier to understand, easier on the ear, more comfortable to listen to

•             They were more able to listen, more able to take on board, more able to comprehend your opening statements, rather than only really getting to grips with what you were saying as you got into your stride a few lines in

In essence, you have just established a handshake with your audience. A good, firm, warm, confident handshake. Just as when you meet someone for the first time with a warm, firm greeting. A warm, firm handshake that sets the scene for the rest of your presentation, whilst you’re only a few seconds in.

Yet all you did was take a good, deep breath.

Want to explore more? Let’s talk, whether that’s on LinkedIn, email or a good old-fashioned conversation.

Email                     : ges.ray@speakinginpublic.info

Tel:                         : 0794 108 3722

Twitter                 : @gesspeaking

LinkedIn               : http://www.linkedin.com/in/gesray

Facebook            : https://www.facebook.com/ges.ray

Websites             : www.speakperformance.online

: www.speakinginpublic.info

Breath Leadership 2: exercise is good for you!

How do you breathe? Or rather, how do you breathe when you are under pressure? How do you breathe when you arrive at the point in the room where you have to stand, have to face the audience, have to speak?

If at any point in your past you have been involved in amateur singing, amateur dramatics, even as far back as school, a few strands of memory may now be bubbling to the surface. Remember your conductor, your musical director, your teacher encouraging you to breathe properly, breathe deeply as you performed?

Why?

Breathing is fundamental to life. It provides your body with the oxygen you need to create energy. Breathing is vital to your very being; it is your life force. Without breath, you cease to exist.

Focus on your breathing for a moment. Listen to your breathing. Feel the air as you inhale, as you exhale. Watch your chest rise and fall.

OK, so I’ve made you think about your breathing again. No apologies; let’s make use of this moment whilst you are in the breathing zone.

Oh, those stairs…

Look at what happens when you physically exert yourself, in sports, in the gym, or for some of us simply making it up the stairs… Yes, you breathe more quickly, but you automatically breathe more deeply, deeper into your lungs, deeper into your chest space.

Take this a step further, into the world of professional singers, professional athletes, professional speakers who have learned to make fuller use of their lung capacity. When their musical director, coach or teacher urges them to “breathe deeply, breathe into your lower stomach, breathe in against your ribcage, breathe into your back,” it isn’t a random instruction. It is simply an encouragement to make fuller use of their lung capacity.

Take this a step further; think of your automatic response when you stop breathing, when you’re at risk of choking, of drowning. Imagine being in the water, in the underwater world of divers, in the deep-water world of freediving. Imagine descending over 200 metres without equipment, without oxygen, underwater for over nine minutes fighting the urge to suck in great gulps of air… (Warning! Don’t try this in the bath at home…)

How’s your breathing now?

Practise this for yourself. Not freediving; I told you the bath isn’t deep enough. Just breathing. When no one is looking(!), stand, and breathe normally. That’s normal, relaxed, shallow breathing into the top of your lungs.

Now place the palm of your hand on your lower stomach, about hip height, or where—if you wear one—your belt buckle would be. As you breathe in, take the breath lower down into your lungs, down towards your hands, using that breath to push out against your hand.

Remember to breathe out again….

Now place your hands on your sides, palms against your lower ribcage, fingertips again about hip or belt high. As you breathe in, still breathing low down into your lungs, still pushing out against where your palm was a few moments ago on your lower stomach, now also push out sideways against your palms where they are now, at your sides on your lower ribcage.

Yes, remember to breathe out again!

Last exercise. Place your palms behind you, against your lower back, now at waist level, fingertips meeting at your spine.

As you breathe in deeply, still pushing against where your palm was on your lower stomach, still pushing against the sides of your ribcage, now also push against your hands where they are on your lower back.

Now you are breathing deeply.

Now when you walk to the front of the room, you are better equipped to use your breathing to build your confidence in speaking, also your audience’s confidence in you.

In the next article, we will look at the effect this has on you, and your audience.

Want to explore more? Let’s talk, whether that’s on LinkedIn, email or a good old-fashioned conversation.

Email                     : ges.ray@speakinginpublic.info

Tel:                         : 0794 108 3722

Twitter                 : @gesspeaking

LinkedIn               : http://www.linkedin.com/in/gesray

Facebook            : https://www.facebook.com/ges.ray

Websites             : www.speakperformance.online

: www.speakinginpublic.info

Breath Leadership 1 – look out for that sabre tooth tiger…

You’ve been there; you know the feeling.

You are in your meeting, at your event. You’re about to speak. Not just speak, but stand up and speak, in public. Public speaking.

Tension rising, temperature rising, pace of breathing rising. Now breathing short and shallow. Heading towards a sense of panic…

Why does this happen? What can you do about it? How can you use breathing to control the room rather than the room controlling you?

In this series of Breath Leadership articles we will look at:

  • Your breathing; what has a sabre tooth tiger got to do with your rising sense of panic?
  • Fundamental exercises to help you understand and control your breathing
  • Your handshake with your audience; how you can change your initial impact on the room with your opening breath
  • Breath leadership; using breathing to help you control the room, tigers notwithstanding

First of all, let’s look at why this happens. Why you can end up feeling you have just climbed a mountain when all you have done is walk to the front of the room.

You are a member of a social species, a species that has evolved and survived by sticking together, supporting each other, surviving together.

A couple of hundred thousand years ago, when you were safely in your cave dwelling with your family, you were comfortable. To step outside on your own risked putting you within range of a passing sabre tooth tiger, who had evolved by seeing you followed by the immediately thought of “Hmm, lunch…”

Hmm, lunch…

Then, you risked death.

Two hundred thousand years later, as you leave the comfort and security of your chair (your cave!) you are not at risk of death. OK, perhaps a tumbleweed moment of stage death as the applause dies before you reach the spot to speak… But your brain doesn’t differentiate.

The default index card that your brain likely selects as you walk to the front is marked ‘DANGER! Leaving the security of my cave. Extreme risk of being a healthy, nourishing lunch for any passing sabre tooth tiger…’

No surprise then that the fight-or-flight mechanism kicks in, adrenaline floods the bloodstream, hands drip with sweat.

No surprise, but what can you do about it?

Breathe.

How are you breathing now as you read this?

Chances are you are sitting reasonably comfortably, shallow breathing into the top of your lungs, the top of your chest. I’ve probably made you think about it now. You are conscious of your breathing, whereas a minute or two ago it was absolutely automatic. Sorry about that! But we’re going to make use of that awareness for a moment.

You’re breathing now in relaxed mode, in comfortable mode, in the mode of most of your audience.

Look at what happens when you physically exert yourself, in sports, in the gym, or for some of us simply making it up the stairs… Yes, you breathe more quickly, but you automatically breathe more deeply, deeper into your lungs, deeper into your chest space.

So when you walk to the front of the room, stop. Before you say a word, take one good deep breath.

You are helping your confidence, also your audience’s confidence in you.

In the next article we will look at how this happens, also breathing exercises to continue building your confidence as a speaker.

Want to explore more? Let’s talk, whether that’s on LinkedIn, email or a good old-fashioned conversation.

Email                     : ges.ray@speakinginpublic.info

Tel:                         : 0794 108 3722

Twitter                 : @gesspeaking

LinkedIn               : http://www.linkedin.com/in/gesray

Facebook            : https://www.facebook.com/ges.ray

Websites             : www.speakperformance.online

: www.speakinginpublic.info

“It’s not you, it’s me” – Why business presentations can fail…

To put it bluntly, your audience is not remotely interested in you.

In what you can do for them, yes, but not in you. Abandon the oft excruciating ‘darling’ suffix from “It’s not you, it’s me” and we’ve segued from classic failed relationship to classic failed business presentation, a topic that has cropped up several times in recent client workshops.

How many speakers focus on themselves and their achievements & credentials rather than on the needs of their audience?

Take heed of sound advice from a famous orator, Abraham Lincoln; just as relevant two centuries later.

“When I get ready to talk to people, I spend two thirds of the time thinking [about] what they want to hear, and one third thinking about what I want to say.”