What is required to communicate with impact? If you want to affect your listeners, you must give your self. Giving your self involves giving your voice. And, at a most basic physical level, giving your voice requires giving away your breath.
Speaking with only a trickle of breath yields only part of your voice, so your listeners get the feeling you’re pulling back and not really committing to your message. Speaking with a generous outflow of breath tends to engage your whole voice. Your listeners feel they’re getting more of you—that you’re confidently standing behind your message.
How can you make sure you’re engaging your breath most effectively?
Optimize your in-breath. The quality of your voice will never exceed the quality of your breath. If your in-breath is small, tense and shallow, your voice will be small, tense and shallow. If your in-breath is deep, full and relaxed, your voice will be deep, full and relaxed. Inhale slowly, through your mouth, and invite the breath to sink as far down into your body as possible. Don’t worry about the pause; it’s never as noticeable as you think. Imagine your breath channel being so large you could drive a truck through it, and the walls of the tunnel being smooth as glass. Allow nothing in the channel to obstruct the flow of breath in any way.
Spend breath generously. Speaking is just another way of exhaling. You’re a wind instrument. Using more breath will make you feel better and sound better. Making one breath last a long time is stupid and counterproductive. Use it up! The next one is free! Practice “wasting” all your breath on just three or four words. Picture breath pouring out of you as you speak. When you use your breath generously, you will automatically sound stronger, more resonant and expressive. You will be engaging.
So making an impact means putting some breath behind what you say. Maybe that’s what Ilse Middendorf meant when she said, “If a person finds his way based on the experience of his breathing, he finds his own power and creativity.” Breath is the power of your voice. When you speak with lots of breath, you actually feel your own strength, and that makes you feel—and sound—strong, at other levels as well. Your listeners will sit up and listen.
For further details, please contact Jay Miller, Toronto Voice and Speech Coach at: