Breathing for Public Speaking

At the beginning of 2020 I was invited to contribute to a public speaking course, in Plymouth, run by Alexis Bowater from Bowater Communications, and we got a couple of sessions in before the corona virus swept through. These are excellent day courses run by Alexis, a respected journalist, TV presenter and PR campaign leader and Duncan Little who has worked extensively in TV and now runs his own Hypnotherapy practise. As presenters, we all focused on why Pubic Speaking is so hard for many people and what we can do about it. That old fight/flight reflex affects people in so many different ways and it’s something we work with in singing lessons and workshops, a lot. Getting over this hurdle is vital for many of the attendees, as it affects their promotion potential. Promotion often means they have to give lectures, interviews, deal with press and they stop moving up the promotional ladder because of the fear of speaking up.

So, what can we do about it?
Duncan explained an excellent modal of why the brain freezes (and how we change that) and Alexis gave us a wealth of experience won wisdom and the best 3 part preparation for ‘on the spot’ interviews ever – it was a golden nugget of information!
I worked on getting their breathing and voices unlocked – and my goodness they were brave! Working with Singers and Actors most of the time, I forget that the noises we make to warm up our voices, are unusual to other ears! Once they got over the embarrassment and shock (!) I had them trilling, bubbling, sssing, shhhhhing and of course letting go of their bellies – big time! Getting them to breathe away from their chests was a real turning point. As singers, we know a high breath clamps our throats – but for non singers it is a massive new piece of information!
What was amazing is that they started to speak out loud, quite naturally, in to the circle and then after our session, they got up and delivered an impromptu 1minute speech in front of the others.

It is important to remember, that like singing, we all need to keep practising our skills, the new breathing obviously needs practise, but also keeping our fact preparation up to date, so that in that crucial moment, we can use them effectively and be confident that we have everything we need under our finger tips. All the exercises in the world won’t work if you never do them. The biggest element I took from the course? Be prepared!

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Sandra Smith is the director of The Lost Sound Dartmoor Folk Choir, visit their dedicated website to find out more.

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