I’ve long believed that the whole point of public speaking is to make a connection. Whether you’re speaking to persuade, to inform, to sell or to entertain, if you fail to connect with your listeners you’re not effective. In order to make that connection, you must be fully engaged and available. Tension, bad habits, nervousness, lack of technique—all these things tend to close doors right at the moment you need to be opening doors. My years of coaching experience have shown there are two physical elements crucial for open, powerful communication.
Grounding simply involves your ability to establish a firm foundation and to settle. When you’re conscious of being supported by the ground, your body tends to relax down onto the ground and your breath drops deeper into your body. Your voice sounds lower and you feel as though you’re speaking with your whole being. It’s one of the simplest things to practice and has a profound effect on your communication. Grounding alone can make you look relaxed, feel strong and sound confident.
Breathing deeply is the closest thing to a silver bullet in the public speaker’s arsenal. There’s no end to the list of things that improve if you learn to breathe well, and most common problems presented by my clients are in some way connected to breathing. The in-breath connects you to your message and makes you expressive. The out-breath provides power, lending impact to what you say. The ability to open yourself easily and fully as you inhale and to spend breath generously as you speak out will transform your public speaking.
Whenever I evaluate a public speaker, the first two questions I ask myself are, “Is this person grounded,” and, “Is this person breathing?” If those two things aren’t happening, the rest is just detail. When those two things are happening, most other desirable traits emerge naturally and effortlessly.
Great public speaking isn’t just about what you’re saying. It starts with how you’re feeling. The openness I mentioned earlier is, especially, an ability to open downward. That cultivates depth at every level of your performance, and that state of being lends substance and power to your speech. You won’t have to make it happen. It will be there, spontaneous, authentic and effective.