I never dreamed I’d be doing a follow-up to the mouth-breathing video, of all topics, but I had that video in the can, the rough edits were completed, and I was standing in the shower trying to come up with a good description, and it dawned on me, I’d never mentioned the practical benefits you might experience from cultivating a mouth-breath as it relates to speaking.
Sure, I gave you three reasons why it’s a good idea. It’s what works, it looks normal and a mouth-breath tends to pre-open the channel for sound, but those are all rather abstract, theoretical ideas that really wouldn’t inspire the average person.
So instead of making that video longer, I decided to shoot what I hope is a brief follow-up just to fill in those gaps. But first, a personal story about mouth-breathing and me.
About twenty years ago, I had just finished my graduate training in voice coaching, the ink was barely dry on my diploma, and I was feeling pretty good about how well I had been trained.
I picked up a magazine article profiling someone who had been Oprah Winfrey’s voice coach, and as is typical with magazine articles, there was a sidebar, Three Tips to Improve Your Speaking Voice, courtesy of Oprah Winfrey’s voice coach.
Number one on that list was the advice to “take a mouth-breath before you speak,” and I’ll never forget my initial reaction to that. “Seriously? That’s the best you can do? Take a mouth-breath before you speak? That’s not even elementary—that’s not even kindergarten—that’s pre-kindergarten!”
And I tossed the magazine aside feeling pretty self-righteous about how my I know, and thinking that, “If that’s the current level of voice coaching in North America, I’m gonna be working with presidents before you know it!”
Fast-forward twenty years, a couple of thousand students later—none of them presidents—and… life has kicked me in the ass more than a few times. One thing I’ve learned in the meantime is that in the moment of teaching, when it’s just me and the student, what I know, the breadth and depth of my knowledge about voice and speech, doesn’t matter.
All that matters at that moment is, “What does my student need to know in order to take the next step forward?” That’s all that matters. And very often that’s going to be something pretty simple.
Talk to any former student of mine, even the advanced ones, and ask them, “What is the one thing you learned in voice training that made the most difference for you?” I guarantee you they’re going to identify something that was covered in lesson number one or lesson number two. I guarantee it.
It’s not going to be something sexy and flashy, it’s going to be something pretty basic and simple that was learned very early in their training. Breathing through your mouth when you speak might be one of those simple things that makes a huge difference.
So, as I promised, here are a few practical benefits that I’ve noticed emerging when people start to cultivate a mouth-breath as it relates to speaking.
Number one, I’ve heard people’s voices get stronger just from breathing through their mouth when they speak. When you breathe through your mouth you tend to take in more air, and more breath power means more voice power.
Two, I’ve hear people’s voices become deeper and fuller when they take a mouth breath as they’re speaking. The quality of your voice tends to reflect the quality of your breath. So when you breathe in through your mouth you tend to take a deeper fuller breath, so that produces a deeper fuller voice.
Three, I’ve heard fast talkers slow down, naturally, just from cultivating a mouth-breath when they speak. Fast talkers usually are not very aware of their need to breathe, so they’re breathing very infrequently, and when they do breathe, they’re grabbing very quick shallow breaths.
When you consciously cultivate a mouth-breath as you’re speaking, you tend to be more aware of your need for breath, so you pause more frequently to breathe in, and you tend to take more time for a real breath. So that means they’re pausing more frequently, taking more time to breathe in, and that naturally relaxes the pace of their speech.
So there are three direct benefits you might experience from cultivating a mouth-breath as you speak. Number 1, stronger voice, number two, a deeper fuller voice and number three, a more relaxed pace of speech.
But wait, I’m not done yet. Those three things together tend to produce two additional benefits. When you’re speaking with a stronger voice, a deeper fuller voice and a more relaxed pace of speech, your delivery automatically becomes more clear. So there’s a corresponding increase in clarity that comes from breathing in through your mouth when you’re speaking.
And when you’re speaking with a stronger fuller voice, and at a more deliberate pace, you feel more in control of your delivery and so you feel more confident as a speaker. Breathing in through your mouth will also improve clarity and increase confidence.
So going back to our story, I take my hat off to Oprah Winfrey’s voice coach. She knew something way back then that it would take me fifteen or twenty years of voice coaching to learn for myself. That when it comes to voice and speech training, simple things matter, and they often matter a great deal more than what it would appear on the surface.
Play around with cultivating a mouth-breath as you speak, and see what kind of improvements you notice.
Thanks for watching this video. Please like, subscribe, comment, you know the drill, and I’ll see you in the next video.
Mouth-Breath Benefits for Speakers
In a previous video I addressed the common question, “When I speak, should I breathe through my mouth or through my nose,” but I forgot to discuss the very practical benefits you might experience by cultivating a mouth-breath when you’re speaking. This video attempts to fill that gap, along with a personal story about mouth-breathing and my development as a voice coach.