How to breathe for voice and calm

Frankie Kemp

18 February 2022

Breathing. We all do it.
Yes, even you.   (This is where I let myself be very presumptuous.)
But are you doing it correctly?
As soon as we feel pressured such as before presenting, interviews or in a meeting, the breathing goes wrong
❗It’s why your nerves get the better of you.
❗The voice sounds shallower than usual, maybe flatter in tone or strained.That’s your breathing right there going awry: into panic mode.Go grab a scarf. You’ll need it for this interactive video where we look at:
  • how you’re breathing incorrectly
  • the impact it has on how you come across to others
  • exactly how to practise your breathing so it supports how you sound and feel.
It’s all here…


Do you ever find that before you present, your mouth starts swimming with saliva, your throat closes up, and you can’t quite get on top of your nervous energy?

Well, if that’s you, then you are breathing incorrectly.

In this video, you will discover what you’re doing wrong and how to make it right. Let’s go.

Hi, I’m Frankie Kemp from, helping professionals in tech be less vanilla and much more thriller.

And in this video, we’re looking at breathing.  Breathing is what makes your voice resonant. It’s able to carry with no effort.

You get more pitch and variety in your voice if you can breathe correctly. And the other thing is you get calm quicker.But let’s see what’s happening with your breathing.  So whether you’re sitting down or standing up for this exercise, it doesn’t matter. But if you’re holding something, put it or them down, if you’re holding someone. Empty hands for this.And if you’re sitting down, place your bum to the back of the chair and whether sitting or standing, do the following exercise to make sure that your chest is placed at the proper level.

So stoop, I’ll turn to the sides so you can see. So you stoop and then raise the chest and then puff it up so you look and feel a little bit arrogant and then centre.

Now that’s where you need to have it.

Shoulders broadly to the side. Don’t push them back, it’s not the army. Just to the side.

Place one hand on your belly. Breathe in. And when you breathe in through your nose, I want you to register what’s
happening with your stomach.

Does it go out, in, up or nothing?

Or maybe it comes out, flicks around your ear.

I don’t know.

Breathe in through your nose now and out through your mouth.

So what happened there?

Some people have to do this again because they feel nothing.

Now, if you felt nothing or your stomach went in when you breathed in, then you’re normal. But if it went out when you breathed in, you’re a freak.

But if you’re a freak, you’re breathing correctly. Yes.

The normal way that people tend to breathe when you ask them to inhale is going to be like this. And when you ask children from around the age of eight to inhale, that’s exactly what they do.

Why is that bad?

Well, this is upper thoracic breathing. Upper thoracic breathing concentrates the breath only on filling up this part of your petrol tank.

You see, when you breathe correctly, the air falls down into the lungs. You have a muscle over there, below the lungs, called the diaphragm.

The diaphragm moves out the way down to allow the stomach to come out. So the stomach comes out and this accommodates the lungs so that they can just spread themselves wide and fill with air right to the bottom.

Then, when you breathe out, the stomach comes in and the air comes out. Breathing from here means that you’re probably pushing the stomach in. The result of this is you get less air in your lungs because you’re only filling it up this much. And the other element to remember is that this is going to make you want to speak faster or gasp for air in the middle of phrases and
sentences, because you don’t have enough air to be able to speak more fully.

And there’s another point here which is going to affect the voice. You’re going to see this right now.

Put your hands on your throat. Over here, you’ve got your voice box. So this is a crucial area when it comes to speaking. And for this I want you to imagine that I am going to bob your head beneath the surface of the water. When it rises up, you’re going to gasp for air.

Allow this to be totally from here, that the shoulders go up and the stomach is in. That’s how you’re going to breathe.

So you breathe in after the count of three so it’ll look like this.

All right. Okay.

One, two, three. Did you see what happened over here? Did you feel what happened? It got tense, didn’t it? Exactly. Now, that is what is happening when you present.

If you’re breathing from here, as opposed to here, your throat is going to tighten up so it gets very strained. And that’s why you might start an octave up. Your voice is shallower. It sometimes becomes much more difficult to put volume in your voice because this channel is more contracted than it usually is.

So not only do you have less air to speak on, so you might speak faster, but it’s going to constrain your vocal tone.

And thoracic breath stimulates adrenaline, so it’s just going to make you feel more nervous.

These are three good reasons for not breathing from here. If you are being chased by an imminent danger, breathing from here helps us to survive because it generates adrenaline on tap.

You don’t want to be doing that, though, before you present. You want to be calmer.

So let’s look at how to do that right now.

Put your hand on your belly. When you breathe in, I’ll turn to the side so you can see what’s happening. When you breathe in, the belly will come out, and then when you breathe out, your belly will come in, because it’s like blowing air into a balloon, allowing a balloon to expand.

If you breathe from here, it’s like squeezing half the balloon so you get air pressure, which gushes out and no sense of control.

Hand over here. We’re going to fill a petrol tank right down to the bottom. Chest in that centred way that you had before. Don’t stick the tailbone out or tuck it in, let there be a natural curve to the spine.

When you breathe in, you’ll breathe in for a count of three and then out aloud, like this. One, two, three. With me, and then you’ll rest for a count of three. Got it? Got it. Great. So breathe in, stomach out, and then breathe out through the mouth for a count of three. 1, 2, 3. And then you rest for three.

The resting is important otherwise, you’ll hyperventilate. You’ll know that you’re hyperventilating because you’ll get very dizzy and eventually fall over, which is no use to anyone.

So you need to breathe in, stomach comes out and then breathe out on a count, and then rest for three.

If you can’t feel anything, then grab a scarf or a belt like this. Stand in front of the mirror. And this is an exercise that I was given when I started drama school. I did this in front of the mirror because I used to get a lot of sore throats before performing. And when I was performing, I also used to get terribly, terribly nervous. So my acting teachers gave me this exercise to help me get calm and take away the pressure from the voice. And it worked. Within a month, I was more intuitively using this area and allowing this to free up.

So you stand in front of the mirror with your scarf or belt. And when you breathe in, you can really see it and feel it. So you breathe in and then out for three, 1, 2, 3 and then rest for three. And make sure that when you’re in front of the mirror that your shoulders aren’t going up or down.

This is really important.

If they’re going up, that’s a sure indicator that your stomach is not working as much as it could do. So you could do it again, breathing in and then extend the count. Maybe if you can do three really comfortably, try maybe five.

So breathe in and then out 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and then relax for three and then extend it each time.

Now at this point, a lot of my clients go, “Yeah, it makes perfect sense” but then they don’t do it even though they can. And I figured out it was because people think that others are pointing at you and at your stomach and going, “Oh, my God, look what’s happening to their stomach. It’s like that scene from Aliens. It’s just coming right out.” But they won’t. They’ll only notice if you’re breathing incorrectly. You don’t notice if someone’s going, “Welcome, everyone.” No one’s going to be pointing at your belly.

This is breathing for life.

If you play a wind instrument, if you meditate, if you do yoga, that’s what you need this breathing for, calm and focus.

But if you’re breathing like this, it’s completely discernible, immediately discernible. So breathing like this goes completely unnoticed.

By doing these exercises where you’re extending your breath, it takes less than a minute before you go to bed. Definitely do it before you speak. So it should be about three times a week. Now, within four weeks, you’ll notice that you’re
able to exhale for probably about ten counts, more than you were before.

This means you are definitely filling your tank with much more air so that you’re able to speak in a more relaxed, full way and you are able to calm yourself so much quicker and empower your voice.

This is not just breathing for presentation. It’s breathing for life.

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