How often should you breathe?

You go right ahead and breathe all you like. You don’t need anyone’s permission. But a singer turned public speaking coach says:

How often should you breathe? At the very least, at the end of every sentence! If you are prone to rushing through your speech or presentation, then practice breathing at every punctuation mark — it will force you to slow down.

As a former opera singer, I know how much breathing affects how a voice sounds. Singers must use deep breathing in order to project a strong voice across a crowded auditorium to reach every single person in the audience. I never thought that this skill would help me once I left the field of opera — until I had to give my first speech. Then, I realized how much my operatic training made me a powerful public speaker.

Now, having taught public speaking and presentation skills for over a decade, I can say with confidence that the ability to harness your breath is one of the most important and least taught areas within public speaking. It’s critical when you’re speaking up in a meeting and it’s crucial when you’re giving a speech or presentation. It’s one of the key elements of executive presence.

Breathing Is the Key to Persuasive Public Speaking – Allison Shapira, Harvard Business Review (30 June 2015)

One of my problems is racing on to the next sentence and the next. It sometimes comes across as enthusiasm and that does get transmitted, but more often it’s just hard to hear what I said. Read the full piece.

Weekend read: but what about you?

I write a personal blog called Self Distract every Friday and today’s one, intended to be just an aside and a musing on things if not necessarily amusing about anything, has caused some comments. Lots of nice things but also people identifying with its topic.

That topic was about conversation and how when we talk to friends, we have to make it a joint, two-way thing. Let me set the scene:

Okay, you may have trouble swallowing this considering how I go on at you every week. But when we meet in person, I am infinitely – infinitely – more interested in you than I am in me. Have I said this to you before? I tell you everything, I must’ve mentioned it: my attitude when nattering away with someone is that I know all about me, I was there, I saw me do it, let’s talk about you.

Truly, time spent talking about me is wasted and boring. I’m not knocking myself, I’m just not interested and I have plenty of time to know me, I might get only minutes with you. And look at you: look at all you’re doing, all you know that I don’t, how could I possibly waste any time talking about me?

I got told off for this today.

It’s not you, it’s me – William Gallagher, Self Distract (6 March 2015)

Read the full piece for what happened – and, much more interestingly, how it might ring some bells with yo.

Talk more – it helps your productivity

Also, everybody is so interesting. But as well as that, nattering is a way of thinking and focusing and learning and listening. And this all helps us as people, it very helps us as writers despite this contorted sentence. It even helps our productivity:

Increase your social life by talking to everyone

It doesn’t take a group of scientists to explain that spending time with people is beneficial for our health. Our emotions alone remind us of how relaxing and joyful it was to spend quality time with someone. Psychologist John Cacioppo once mentioned in his book, Loneliness, that, “loneliness isn’t some personality defect or sign of weakness. It’s a survival impulse like hunger or thirst, a trigger pushing us toward the nourishment of human companionship.”

We’re not immune to the feelings of isolation and despite what we think, it’s necessary to speak to a variety of people throughout the day. (Even if it has to be the weird store clerk who gives us a blank stare).

If you have a hard time expressing your thoughts to people or experience shy behaviors, become interested in what they’re saying rather than focusing on being an interesting person. Don’t concentrate about impressing someone with your intellects and instead, listen to what they have to say. Most of the time, people will always prefer talking about themselves when given the chance and you can learn a lot about them by asking questions and being genuine.

12 ways to boost your productivity – Michael Gregory II, Self Development Workshop (4 March 2015)

This is actually number 1 in a series of 12 suggestions for being more productive. I don’t know what the other 11 are yet because I came straight here to talk to you about this one. Read the full piece for the rest.

Future You

I got this idea from a woman I’m mentoring in all this creative productivity. That’s a thing now: I do The Blank Screen sessions one to one and it is the most hair-raising fun I’ve had since writing the original book. There are so many great things about getting in so deep with an individual and their work and one of them is that I learn things back.

Such as Future You.

It’s just this:

Do it now so that Future You doesn’t have to.

And maybe:

Do it now so that Future You loves you – or at least thinks you’re okay

My mentoree (is that a word?) says she uses it for simple things like making the beds in the morning rather than leaving it until she gets back from work. She uses it in her work, getting things done while they’re fresh so that her Future You isn’t stressed out with a deadline.

She also says she falls down a bit on that last one.

But the idea is simple and sound and I’m using it right now. I haven’t got a lot on today but they are important to me. And they’re occupying more time than they should: they are events of a certain quite short duration yet the time I’m spending planning and churning and rehearsing means I will lose the whole day to them. Which is fine and even very good, but I wanted to write to you. So right now, rather than holding my head and clutching a hot mug of tea, hello. Future Me will be pleased I did this now because Future Me would be very narked if I missed a chance to chat.

In a mo, I’m off to a school for the last of four sessions about scriptwriting. I was up for hours last night worrying about this, about what we have left to do, what they can get done, what we can make together. And then around 5am – no, wait, I get up at 5am, it was exactly 5am – I went from my bed to my Mac to write down all I needed for the morning.

I wrote that naked at 5am and have you seen how cold it is out there? I was shaking by the time I’d finished. But Future Me then got to stand in a hot shower and let the worries and the plans soak away.

To be replaced by nerves about tonight. For tonight I’m performing at the launch of an anthology of short stories. It was my first commissioned prose fiction and so far it has gone down stormwards. Tonight’s the big presentation, though. It will be the 120th time I’ve presented or spoken or done something with an audience since I moved back to Birmingham two years ago. But it’s a worry.

Future Me is currently discussing with Present Me why in the world Past Me invited my family.