You look at your audience: a conference room full of attorneys or a jury – and your mouth goes dry. How can you speak comfortably in a way that projects confidence – if your mouth is dry and the butterflies are rolling around in your stomach?
Watch What You Eat and Drink
When you know you are going to be speaking, avoid eating a breakfast of milk or yogurt, which thickens saliva and can also cause sinus congestion. Add these factors to being nervous and dry-mouthed, and you have a scenario for great discomfort.
A dry mouth affects your ability to speak. Some people smack their lips to moisten them. When you’re speaking into a microphone, the effects can be disastrous.
Hydrate a day or two ahead of time. Keep a bottle or cup of water or herbal tea by your side.
And do watch alcohol consumption the night before you need to give a talk or testify. Hangovers can create disastrous results.
Some people find that a little lemon flavor in the drink makes it more desirable to drink.
Watch how much you drink on the day of your testimony in a courtroom. Time your water consumption with bathroom breaks. If you need to go to the bathroom at a time not planned for a break, don’t count on the judge being cooperative.
When you testify in a courtroom, you may be offered a cup of water about the size of the one supplied by your dentist. Bring a bottle of water with you.
And don’t do what I did one time in the courtroom. In my state of anxiety, I poured water from a carafe into a small cup. I Incorrectly estimated Its capacity and spilled water all over my client’s papers. He and I both stared in horror at the mess I made.
Don’t try using carbonated beverages as a substitute for water. They can have a dehydrating effect. Also, carbonation causes bloating and discomfort.
Tune Up Your Voice to Speak Comfortably
Achieve a loose and flexible voice by warming up the many muscles involved in speech. This helps you with clarity, being able to form words, and being heard. It can also help prevent your voice from cracking. Do some research on how actors warm up their voices and follow the same patterns.
Also be very careful about the volume at which you speak. If you regularly need to speak loudly, you may damage your vocal chords. Microphones eliminate that risk.
Why This is Important
The British singer, Adele, had a period where she didn’t sing, and she couldn’t even speak for six months. The reason was she had done exactly that. She damaged her vocal cords so severely that she’d ruptured a blood vessel.
When you speak comfortably the vocal cords vibrate against each other. If you rupture a blood vessel there, the minute you begin to speak the vibration creates a callus. The treatment for this is to remove the callus.
But then you can’t speak because the minute you start speaking, you start to create that friction and you create another one.
This may sound like an extreme condition that you think would never happen to you, but if you speak frequently, for example, at a conference, you can create accumulating damage to your voice. Take care of it by warming up.
How well you conserve your vocal cords can be strongly affected by how you breathe. The natural way to breathe is by using the diaphragm.
Stop for a moment and pay attention to how you’re breathing. The natural way is for your abdomen to expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale. When you do this, you’re assisting your lungs. You’re also preventing abdominal and solar plexus constriction, which can induce anxiety.
In addition, deep belly breathing helps your voice to carry without straining your throat and vocal chords.
If you watch babies when they’re sleeping, you’ll see that they naturally do this kind of breathing. In the course of childhood, you unlearn it.
Some kids hold their breath when they’re angry and create tension in their abdomens. (Remember that childhood threat? “I’m going to hold my breath until I die.” I think I tried this once. My mother said, “No, you won’t. You’ll start breathing again. Get over it.”)
If you take time, even five minutes a day, to focus on correct breathing, you’ll get a lot of benefits, like increased oxygen. You may find yourself feeling less anxious, which will help you not only in your public speaking but in every aspect of your life.
The next time you are giving a talk to attorneys or testifying at a trial or deposition, remember: hydrate (but not too much so you get uncomfortable) and avoid dairy. Warm up your voice to speak comfortably and avoid dairy.
Pat Iyer is president of The Pat Iyer Group, which develops resources to assist LNCs obtain more clients, make more money and achieve their business goals and dreams.
Pat testified for 25 years at trials and depositions and made multiple presentations to attorneys and paralegals at state and national conferences. She continues to be a frequent instructor at AALNC conferences and chapters.
Pat’s related websites include the LNC business coaching services she offers through LNCAcademy.com, the continuing education provided on LNCEU.com, the podcasts broadcast at podcast.legalnursebusiness.com, and writing tips supplied at patiyer.com.
Get all of Pat’s content in one place by downloading the mobile app, Biz Edu at www.legalnursebusiness.com/bizedu. Watch videos, listen to podcasts, read blogs, watch online courses and training and more.