Pausing and Breathing: a guide

  1. Summary
  2. Examples of pausing and breathing in speaking
  3. What are the benefits of pausing and breathing in a speaking setting?
  4. What are strategies to pause and breathe?
  5. Common questions
  6. Conclusion


Most beginner speakers don’t pause when they want to, they fall silent because they run out of words. As soon as they lose their train of thought – they freeze. Their mind blanks. They just finished explaining one point and the next point disappears from their mind. The sudden silence feels like a crash.

In such silence, it can feel like the audience’s eyes are on you, waiting for you to come up with something to say. In the beginner’s mind, the pause is linked to failing: you’re doing something wrong, and other people are seeing every moment of it.

At Ultraspeaking, we tell our students that all those things most speakers define as a failure – having a blank mind, rambling, or rushing – are a natural part of impromptu speaking. Great speakers know this, it happens to them all the time. They just know how to get out of it when it invariably happens.

The key to getting yourself out of this panic lies in the pause and the breath. It’s your antidote to overwhelm, your instrument to clarity, and your secret to coming across as confident. When you have control over the pause, you gain control over any moments of panic, fear, or overwhelm. These moments are reduced to just another normal part of speaking. It’s possible to lose your train of thought and not even flinch about it!

Examples of pausing and breathing in speaking

You may be wondering how pausing and breathing can help you in everyday conversations and scenarios. Take the following examples: 

  • Your supervisor asks you a difficult question on the report you just presented at work. Instead of speaking right away, you pause – you take a deep breath in, slowly let it out, and then start speaking. This gives you time to connect to what you want to say and makes you look thoughtful and unhurried.

  • You’re in the middle of telling a story to a group of friends over dinner but forget a key detail. Instead of apologizing or jumping out of the story, you take a deep breath and pause for dramatic effect. In the silence, the detail arrives and you pick the story back up with even greater enthusiasm. 

  • You walk into a bar and want to strike up a conversation with someone, already preparing the phrasing and words before you even open your mouth. Instead, you can pause and breathe, then say hello. You remain in control, not your nerves.

  • You’re asked to give an impromptu speech. Normally this would have stressed you out – you might reiterate several times you aren’t prepared and proceed to fumble your way through an awkward toast. But now, you can use those few moments for a brief silence to pause, breathe, and compose yourself. On the outside you look thoughtful and confident, on the inside you get more clarity and land on even more meaningful things to say.

  • You’re instructing a group of employees on new company guidelines. Instead of speeding through the information, you take regular pauses after each point in order to emphasize it and to give space for people to process what you just said.

Pausing and breathing are fundamental behaviors of world-class communicators, and it’s something anyone can start implementing today.

What are the benefits of pausing and breathing in a speaking setting?

In speaking, there’s always turbulence – there’s never going to be a perfect environment free from distractions, unwanted noises, and nerves. It’s a complex process with a lot of unexpected variables.

In general, most beginner speakers under turbulence tend to panic and give into nerves and anxiety. Only flight attendants and pilots that are trained under turbulence follow a different protocol! This makes these trained experts grounded, calm, and conscious of what’s happening. That’s exactly what pausing and breathing will give you in speaking.

When you pause, you get more clarity when things go wrong. When you know moments like this are going to happen, you can leverage them instead of getting defeated by them.

What are strategies to relive moments?

1. Realize that blanking and pausing look identical on the outside

The only way your audience will realize you’re panicking and going blank is when you reveal it to them. But when you realize blanking is a natural part of speaking, you can use these moments to pause and breathe, never letting the audience know you’re totally forgotten your place! More importantly, these dramatic pauses signal to your audience that you deserve the space to think, and that your thoughts are intentional.

Ultimately you signal to yourself that you’re confident, and you give yourself space to be more creative and dynamic. At Ultraspeaking, we’ve seen that pausing and breathing are key to enabling your brain to function better. Your thinking gets sharper because you can take your time.

2. When the pressure goes up, slow down

When people drive to an unfamiliar intersection or confusing fork in the road, they often turn down the music. They remove distractions, pay attention, and slow down to figure out what to do next.

In speaking, most people tend to do the opposite. They turn up the music, press on the gas, and start to speed up, hoping the right words will magically come to them. But what usually happens is they just feel more lost and nervous and just keep rambling.

When you notice your speaking is getting out of control, turn down the music. Slow down, take a breath, give yourself some space.

3. Focus on the body experience of the breath

When you’re genuinely reliving a moment, and not merely describing what Speaking is a flow-oriented process, and the easiest way to break your flow is when you think about your flow. To speak well, you need to get out of your own way. You can do this by placing your attention in your body again through the pause and breathe exercise.

When you take a breath and focus on your physical body, you literally get out of your thinking brain and open the doors to access flow. The answer to “I’m too much in my head” is “be more in your body.” The breath is your way to get there.

4. Connect to what you say in the breath

Feeling connected with what you’re saying on a physiological and emotional level is often more important than getting the right ideas and having the right words.

Most people start to speak from the head. They’re very analytical. They don’t infuse their speaking with passion because they’re not truly connecting with what they’re saying. They’re not in a flow state and present with their body; they’re at a distance, trying to juggle plans, outlines, and points to make a speech go well.

The breath is the space to really absorb what you’re saying. You pause and you charge up with feeling. And then when you start speaking again, you have a totally new, refreshed form of energy about what you’re saying.

5. Speak to discover, pause to iterate

Unlike a piece of writing or recorded audio, speaking is a living thing. Answers evolve while you give them, because new inspiration strikes under pressure. In a sense, speaking is the process of thinking out loud. You’re just refining your thinking to a better version than how it sounded in your head.

However, when given a choice between discovering a new thought on the fly in front of a large audience, or preparing a speech beforehand, most people will prefer the second. But like most amatuer speakers, these people are afraid to let themselves feel the spontaneity and sudden inspiration a pause will give you.

When you know how to use the pause, your spontaneous speaking gets better, because your thinking gets clearer. (And as a bonus: you don’t have to prepare so much!)

5. Take a breath before you start

Ultraspeaking is about connecting with yourself and your speaking. Taking a breath helps you do that. 

We want all our students to have the confidence to take a long pause and gather their thoughts before speaking. It will allow you to calm down, set your intention, and speak even better.

Common questions

What if I pause and someone interrupts me?

If you signal your pause is intentional, people will be less likely to interrupt you. If you pause with confidence, people wait.

But speaking is a dynamic experience, and you can’t prepare for everything. The truth is, you may get interrupted during a pause. But that’s alright – it’s just another opportunity to remain calm and be a better speaker. 

Great speaking is about adapting and adjusting on the fly, not forcing yourself and others to stick through a rigid, pre-planned script. Perhaps your audience already understood your point, and someone interrupted you because they’re more interested in your next point. Or perhaps they want to build on what you already said. 

You’re contributing to the group dialogue, the general solution, not your solution. Instead of having a bunch of monologues, you enter a conversation, allowing everyone present to experience a richer, more vibrant experience.


Beginner speakers are often terrified of losing their words and looking foolish during a speech. They tend to rush through their presentation, rigidly focusing on their script and not forgetting their points. 

But this prevents them from being present in the moment, and opening themselves up to dynamic spontaneity and being in a flow state. The truth is, getting lost during a speech, blanking, and rambling, are all normal occurrences every speaker has to go through in order to become a skilled speaker. It’s not about avoiding these moments, it’s about embracing them and using them to become better.

Being lost isn’t failing – it’s a moment to get new clarity again. Speaking is living communication. It evolves, it iterates, it improves while you deliver it. Pausing is your way to navigate the turbulence and to use it to your advantage.

In the end, pausing is just a habit of navigating these complexities. The simple rule of emergencies comes to play: don’t panic! Take a breath, pause, gather yourself. Then, keep moving forward. 

Reliving Moments: a guide

  1. Summary
  2. Examples of reliving moments in speaking
  3. What are the benefits of reliving moments in a speaking setting?
  4. What are strategies to relive moments?
  5. Common questions
  6. Conclusion


Your ability to retell and relive moments of your life is one of the most fundamental skills you have. Indeed, it’s one of the driving factors that has allowed humanity to progress and grow since the beginning of time, helping us transfer memories and knowledge for hundreds of generations across thousands of years. It’s in your DNA to have a powerful response to stories; it triggers emotions that anchor key moments of our lives.

However, beginner speakers often overcomplicate storytelling. They often ask themselves: How do I summarize this part? Should I tell this part or this part first? Am I losing them? I don’t know if this is interesting enough? These thoughts often trigger panic and anxiety, severely limiting their speaking ability.

But if you’re simply reliving a memory instead of trying to orchestrate a powerful speech, everything falls into place without you having to think about it. You don’t have to analyze, make sense, or follow a structure. You just remember what it was like to be there, and tell it how it was. You’re running with the feeling instead of chasing after it.

When you’re reliving the moment, you’re focused on remembering and embodying what was happening, how it felt, making it easier to express your emotions (and trigger emotions of your audience. Most beginner speakers fall into the trap of speaking from an abstract point of view, focusing on intellectualizing what they lived. 

Allow yourself to relive the moment. Don’t focus on delivering a great story – focus on remembering what it was like for you.

Examples of reliving moments in speaking

To illustrate exactly what reliving a moment is, let’s start with the process of getting there. Most beginner speakers tend to tell abstract stories, merely a summary of what happened, or perhaps the biggest lesson they learned from an experience. But if you go a layer deeper, less abstract and more into reliving the moment, it’s easy to include more details of what happened. Ultimately, you’re describing what went on again, how you felt and what you thought. Here are some examples of summarization first, and eventually truly reliving the moment:

Most abstract: “We shouldn’t look at our phones while driving. I almost got in a car accident one time because I was texting. This is a reminder: don’t look at your phone while driving! 

This is the highest level of abstraction. You’re sharing the conclusion you came to from living this experience.

Still abstract: “This morning I was driving, and I looked at my phone. And then like, I almost hit someone. It was really scary.” 

That’s one level deeper. Now you’re telling what happened. That’s what a lot of people do when they try to relive moments. But there are still multiple levels above what actually happened.

Better, but still abstract: “I’m looking at my phone. Oh, yeah. I remember picking up my phone. And I was looking at it. And then, I just looked up. I swerved. I almost crashed. And it was a super scary experience for me.”

So again, almost you’re coming closer to the details, but the story is still missing something.

Reliving the moment: “This morning, I was driving my car. I was stressed out because I was a little bit late and I had this meeting coming that I didn’t prepare for. And I remember pulling up my phone, opening up my notes. And I’m peeking at mine, and I’m trying to be careful. But I also need to get these notes into my brain because I want to be prepped. So I’m looking at this. And I must have gotten lost in my notes, because at one moment, lucky me, I just looked up, and I was going straight into the river. And had I not looked up at that very second, I would be in the water. And I remember just, bang, pulling on the steering wheel, the car moved, I almost had the accident just because of that. But the second I got out of it, like, I could feel my heart beating inside of my ears, my whole head wanted to expose, I had to stop myself on the side of the road two minutes later because I just couldn’t get the adrenaline down. And I just that’s why I’m late this morning. I stayed 10 minutes sitting on the side of the road, realizing I almost died because you wanted to reread your notes before this meeting. Like what does that even mean? And so I, I had this realization, and I just wanted to share it with everyone. Hey, it’s okay, if you come 10 minutes late. It’s okay if you come unprepared. If the cost would be looking at your phone in your car, don’t look at your phone in your car. I almost died for all of us today.”

In this example, the speaker is simply telling the story of how it happened. Because moments are relived instead of merely described, it triggers emotions in yourself and the audience. Relive the moment, and let the story tell itself.

What are the benefits of reliving moments in a speaking setting?

Humans relate to stories because it allows them to experience what you experienced. You aren’t telling them what they should do or think; you’re telling them the experience that happened to you and how it made you feel in those moments.

What we find at Ultraspeaking is that reliving moments is the skill that unlocks all other skills. 

Storytelling in this way is a fundamental human experience. We used it to make sure others got the significance of us running into a tiger in the wilderness (and to avoid tigers); we kept using it to use others’ experiences to make sense of the world around us. Humans have been using this skill to relate to others since the dawn of humankind.

When a speaker truly relives a moment, all the other Ultraspeaking tenets just happen by themselves. The speaker will naturally vary their pacing, comfortably changing pace and tone to communicate a deeply human experience. They’ll naturally enjoy the experience of speaking. They’ll naturally access flow. They’ll naturally stay in character. They’ll naturally start speaking better. They’ll hit every single one of our foundational tenants if they can truly allow themselves to relive that moment. 

If you can unlock this skill, you will unlock the feeling of being a great speaker. And it’s just one memory away.

What are strategies to relive moments?

1. Storytelling is easy, keep it easy

When it clicks for people that storytelling is the simple act of going into remembering mode and recalling what happened, we often get the response “oh, I didn’t have to add anything, I didn’t have to make it into something more interesting than what happened.” You don’t have to make it more exciting, you don’t have to analyze anything.

2. You know the backstory of your insight, they don’t

When you share a lesson or other piece of information, you have the story in your mind of why this clicked for you. But your audience doesn’t. When you share a tip about why people shouldn’t look at their phones while driving, you carry the emotional experience with you of almost crashing because you looked at your phone. But if you’re just sharing that distilled lesson, you’re only sharing the tip of the iceberg. It won’t hit, yet you don’t know why because for you it does hit – it was terrifying for you! By reliving the moment, you share the emotional experience as well.

3. Use active language, use the present tense

When you’re genuinely reliving a moment, and not merely describing what happened, you’ll speak like you are in that moment again. For example: “And at that point, I looked at my phone and I was so disappointed.” Instead, you say “And at this point, I look at my phone and I feel so disappointed!” Talking in the present tense paints a picture in the mind of your audience, transporting them to that moment. It’s the last subtle change to get the last layer of abstraction away, so you can really be there.

4. The audience lives their own story through your story

One of the realizations every speaker has to go through at some point is that the audience is thinking about themselves while you tell your story. And that’s perfectly fine. In fact, that’s magical. You give the listener a story of their own, a story that didn’t exist in their lives. If you talk about how it impacted you so much to visit your parents that one time, the person listening might imagine calling their own parents and being inspired to do that. They’re extracting their own lessons. They live their own stories through yours.

For you, the message is to entirely focus on your own story and fully relive your own moment so that your audience can take away their own morals and lessons.

5. Tell stories about boring moments

An excellent way to practice great storytelling is to relive boring moments. Use the Ultraspeaking games to record yourself reliving a moment of your morning. See if you can enter remembering mode and feel what you felt again, without making it more significant than it was. Just documenting and feeling what was there is enough. If you can do that, it will be a piece of cake for moments that have meaning to you.

Common questions

How do I relive moments in the work environment?

In basically any presentation, there will be space for an opportunity to share a small anecdote.

It could even be in the introduction while people are getting ready and you’re about to start. “Hey, before I jump into this, I wanted to share this moment that happened.” Or you could say: “I’m about to share that this project you’re about to see has numbers that don’t look good. And from the outside, it might look like we’re not doing well. But let me tell you what happened this morning. I was on the phone with one of our clients, and…

You can always find something to say, some anecdote, some moment that will allow people to anchor them to emotion better. Maybe you want them to feel hopeful, fearful, or excited. Think about the moment that made you feel that way, and relive it.

It’s key to realise that everything you’re presenting is a result of your thinking process. So don’t just present the conclusions, relive the experience of thinking through the problem and arriving at your solutions, like you once did for yourself.

Now, you don’t have to do this for every data point, fact, or finding. But it’s important to remember the ultimate public speaking rule:

People ignore advice but listen to stories. They don’t want to learn from you, they want to learn with you.

What if I don’t remember what happened?

This is where the Ultraspeaking ground principle can help you out: Speak before you think. What we find is that students always know something about the memory they want to relive. And if you just start with the few vague details that you do remember, the rest will come to you quickly, because your brain is making associations with what you’re saying.

A more long term effect we often see is that, when students start to relive more moments, they tend to remember more moments as well.


Ultimately, storytelling isn’t about constructing this perfect story arch. It’s simply reliving the moment without adding something. It’s as simple as that because it always has been. Humans are wired to transfer emotional experiences in this way.
So don’t worry about the structure of great stories; instead, embody the state people were in when they were telling great stories. And that state is: being lost in the moment they’re talking about.

End Strong: a guide

  1. Summary
  2. What does it mean to end strong?
  3. What are the benefits of ending strong?
  4. What are strategies to end strong?
  5. Common questions
  6. Conclusion
  7. Additional Resources


Ending strong means ending your speaking with confident energy. Most beginner speakers tend to do the opposite, abruptly ending their speaking with low energy and a whimper. This bad habit can ruin an excellent speech – your audience tends to remember your ending more than any other part of your speech. 

Ending strong is a habit you can easily build. In fact, you can practice it every time you speak. Take it from us – it’s rare to find a speaking technique that’s so universal and so easy to adopt. 

The most important thing to keep in mind is that ending strong doesn’t mean you have to make a grand, meaningful, genius conclusion. You only need to say your last words with confidence and stick the landing all the way to completion.


There was an experiment where freestyle rappers were put into an MRI machine and asked to improvise a song. Scientists observed that right at the end of their improvised performance, the rappers’ prefrontal cortex began to light up with activity. The thinking brain came online.

For the duration of their improvised rap, these individuals were in a flow state – but suddenly at the very end, their inner critic woke up and begin the awful experience of self-sabotage and harsh criticism. 

The same experience happens in speaking. It’s a common occurrence to begin placing heavy expectations on yourself to finish strong, which often leads to self-doubt and diminishing confidence in your entire speech. This sudden inner chaos often wreaks havoc on a speaker, potentially ruining an excellent speech altogether.

Every speaker has experienced this in some way or another. It’s a natural conclusion of the body and mind when you begin to reach the end of your speech. But to your audience, this sudden chaos is invisible. By choosing to end strong, you ensure the audience perceives you as a strong, confident speaker all the way through.

What are examples of ending strong in speaking?

  • You make a contribution to a brainstorming session, and instead of ending with “But, I don’t know, this is probably nothing,” you give your contribution with confident energy. In this way, your idea will be taken seriously instead of judged immediately.

  • Your friends peer pressure you into giving a toast at dinner. You improvise something, and instead of ending with “So… I guess… That’s it?” you end with extra confident energy to compensate for how you feel at that moment. Because of that, people admire what you said and feel good about it.

What are the benefits of ending strong?

Studies show that people tend to remember the end of experiences more than the beginning. In speaking, this concept means it matters more what you do in the final seconds than any other section –  precisely the stage where most people struggle the most. If you pick up the tiny habit to intentionally end strong, you’ll quickly see massive shifts in how your speaking is perceived – and significant boosts in your confidence and authority.

Ending strong is the easiest habit you can integrate in your speaking to be perceived as more confident. At Ultraspeaking, what we see over and over again is that when other people see you as more confident, you start to believe that, too.

Another benefit to ending strong is that you give your audience a lens of judgment at the end of what you say. If you habitually end with self-doubt, your audience will consistently interpret what you say through that lens, no matter what you say. If you make it a habit to always end strong and present what you say in the best possible way, people can judge the message on its actual content, not a whimper of an ending. 

What are strategies to end strong?

1. The finish line goes beyond speaking

The average person tends to think the finish line is right at the moment you stop speaking. However, the true ending to speaking is actually a few seconds after you finish your last sentence.

Picture a gymnast that finishes a difficult routine and sticks the landing. The performance is not over. The gymnast continues to hold the pose, breathe, and smile at the judges. The same is true for speaking.

Just because you said your final word doesn’t mean the job is finished. Your listeners need a few seconds to absorb what you said. It’s still registering in their brain. In these precious seconds, you want to avoid dropping eye contact, slouching your shoulders, and adopting a nervous glance. Instead, remain calm and poised. Take a big, deep breath.

2. Land the plane on your terms

If speaking is like flying an airplane, you’re the pilot. If you notice that you’re going in for that last sentence and the words start to get jumbled, pull the plane back up. Say another sentence and then try for the landing again. Always land the plane on your terms.

This doesn’t mean you need to say something brilliant or meaningful on the spot. It just means that you end strong, with confidence. 

3. Ending strong is a habit just like anything else

The reason most people don’t end strong is simply that they’ve built a habit of ending weak. It’s natural to let that inner critic dictate your ending, filling you with doubt and dread. But if you sit through that temptation just a couple of times, the pull to panic gets weaker and weaker.

Approach ending strong like any other habit. Practice it in your daily conversations. The more you focus on it, the sooner it will become a part of your natural way of being.

Common questions

What if what I said actually didn’t make sense?

First of all, ending strong doesn’t mean you can say the following after every speech: “This is all true and you should believe me.” Ending strong simply means you never unintentionally signal to your audience that you’re scared, nervous, and unsure. 

Ending strong just means ending with confidence. Think about it like putting on a crisp new shirt vs. a torn, ragged tank top: the shirt doesn’t change you, it doesn’t change what you say, yet people perceive you as more confident and professional. You’ll feel that way, too. 


There’s really no excuse not to end strong. The only reason you don’t end strong is habit. That’s natural – the inner critic gets noise at the end and often it feels too uncomfortable to hold that noise inside. We want to break the tension we feel by leaking it externally. But that only makes things worse.

Ending strong is a habit that you can build easily. In fact, you can do it every time you speak. It’s rare to have a technique that’s so universal. However, you’ll notice that whether it’s with your partner, or with your kids, or in class, or at work, or wherever – every time you speak, as soon as it’s done, you just end strong. It’s an easy habit to adopt, and it has the biggest impact on the lasting impression you make.

There’s no excuse! End strong. 

Express Your Emotions: A Guide

1. Summary
2. Examples of expressing your emotions in speaking
3. What are the benefits of expressing your emotions in a speaking setting?
4. What are strategies to express your emotions?
5. Conclusion


Expressing your emotions in speaking is the idea of being human. It’s what connects us to our audience. Emotions are naturally relatable.

As we grew up, however, we learned to suppress them. We learned not to be too cheerful when sharing our ideas and we learned it’s unpolite to express anger. But in doing so, we overshot so far that we often don’t express our emotions at all, unless they come out uncontrollably.

Because of this, a lot of people aren’t speaking up. And when they do speak up they perform at 50%, because they try to contain themselves. They present the facts but keep away their feelings. By doing so, their words fall flat and they do a poor job at communicating what they actually want to say. 

The good news is that you already know how to express your emotions, and you did it with ease with yourself and with your close friends. The secret is to transfer this skill into the environments that matter most – such as important meetings, crucial conversations, and everyday life.

Examples of expressing your emotions in speaking

  • You’re presenting the quarterly results in front of your team. The slide shows a 25% increase in sales. Are you proud? Disappointed? Whatever the feeling is, you inject it into your speaking. You don’t just share the numbers; you tell us how you feel about them.
  • Somebody asks you about your weekend. Rather than exchanging the usual pleasantries and summarizing your experience, you actually share the most vivid details of your weekend. You express the joy of ice skating for the first time in 5 years and share the hilariously painful moment of falling on your butt. 
  • In a team meeting, you notice that everyone is on their laptops and not paying attention. You consider keeping quiet, but decide to say something. You express your frustration in a bold, yet polite manner. The team members look up from their computers, get the message, and close their laptops. Your words hit home and the meeting becomes more effective as a result.
  • You’re leaving a voicemail (do people still do that?) and notice yourself entering the usual scripted speaking that we all do for voicemails. Instead, you snap out of the trance and use the opportunity to say something meaningful. You express how much you’re looking forward to seeing each other and share your excitement for the night ahead.
  • You’re in a brainstorming session and someone asks for your input. In the past, you would have avoided taking a clear side. However, you feel partial toward a particular idea and believe that it’s the right way to go. You decide to inject that belief into your words and passionately share your perspective. The team hears your enthusiasm and your conviction, and decide that indeed it is the best option to go with.

What do all of these examples have in common?

There is a dry way of expressing yourself, and then there is a vivid way of doing so. Each of these examples showcases an opportunity to do what is easy and familiar, or to choose a more bold, expressive approach. The latter is what connects you to others and conveys greater care, conviction, and engagement. Don’t play small. Speak up and share your emotions.

What are the benefits of expressing your emotions in a speaking setting?

One of the greatest benefits of masterfully expressing your emotions in a speech is that it makes you universally relatable. Everyone has experienced frustrations at work, heartbreak in a relationship, or striving against adversity. Emotions give meaning to your words and instantly connect you with some of the deepest memories of your audience.

Second, feeling your emotions and sharing them makes it easier to speak. Your delivery will become more natural and fluid, and less like reading a script. Using your emotions to speak takes you out of a dry, stale thinking process and gets you into the flow. It helps you connect to your content and access what you truly want to say. And it’s more fun! Even serious content can be delivered in more accessible, entertaining ways, all of which pleases your audience even more.

What are strategies to express your emotions?

1. Use musicality

Musicality is expressing a contrast of feelings. Stories, conversations, and explanations aren’t one-sided; they’re dynamic. Instead of focusing on alternating your volume, pausing at the right moment, or varying your pace, you can focus on the root cause: feeling and expressing the different feelings.

2. Leverage energy

Different energies open avenues to different content. If you speak with high energy and express a vivid emotion, different thoughts will come to you than when you lean into your calm, deep, pensive side. Energy is a portal to new ideas. Shake things up not to wake up the listeners, but to inspire yourself.

3. Feel what you say

If you talk about how frustrated you are with a smile, you’re probably not allowing yourself to actually feel it. Because of that, people won’t resonate as much with your message. Equally so, if you say how much you care about someone but don’t feel that all, it will show. It won’t feel as good, and your audience won’t buy into it, either.

4. Care about what you say

If you don’t care about what you say, no one will. But when you truly care about what you’re saying, a story you’re telling, or information you’re giving, your audience will listen. If the information you need to deliver doesn’t make you care, try to find a perspective in it that does. There’s always something.

5. Train in a safe environment

Expressing your emotions is sometimes associated with a loss of control. It’s difficult, even scary, to relive some of your most vivid memories of pain, loss, or failure. To avoid this unease, you may begin to subconsciously narrow your range, constrain your expression, and reduce your speaking to a fraction of its potential.

The solution? Train in a safe space, where you’re free to mess up, start over, and try again. This allows you to learn the boundaries of your emotions and expand your points to their maximum impact.


Expressing your emotions makes you relatable, one of the greatest achievements a speaker can aspire to accomplish. We all know what it’s like to feel hurt, feel angry, feel stressed, feel lost. We also know what it’s like to feel hopeful, feel excited, feel powerful. Expressing your emotions means presenting your personal feelings, positive and negative, and enabling other people to feel them too. By doing this, people can relate to the human behind the words.

Even presenting professional, “dry” content allows you to infuse the elements of human emotions like anger, fear, joy, and sadness. It’s the secret sauce to connection and will help you connect with your audience more than reading a script or reciting lines ever could.

Stay in Character: a guide

1. Summary
2. Examples of staying in character
3. What are the benefits of staying in character?
4. What are strategies to stay in character?
5. Common questions
6. Conclusion


“Pros are just amateurs who know how to gracefully recover from their mistakes.” – Kevin Kelly

Contrary to what many nervous beginner speakers think, humans actually look confident by default – we break that when we adopt the characteristics of anxiety, self-doubt, and fear. By staying in character during a speech, you can exude massive confidence and authority – even if you feel afraid and nervous on the inside.

In fact, it’s normal to feel anxious when speaking. But it’s not helpful to draw attention to it. Staying in character means focusing on what’s important, instead of explicitly pointing out your insecurities. People can only tell when you’re anxious when you reveal it to them.

Trust that you’re exuding an aura of confidence. Avoid judging or criticizing your speaking when you speak. Acting confident leads to feeling confident. 

Choose to embrace whatever happens. If your primary goal is “don’t make mistakes,” you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. Instead, allow yourself to bend and flow at the moment, accepting and embracing off-script interruptions.

Examples of staying in character

  • It’s normal to have your mind go blank when speaking. In these moments, don’t panic. Stay in character. Keep in mind that from the outside, blanking looks identical to pausing. A pause looks thoughtful, and so does blanking – if you stay in character. Stay composed. Breathe. And wait. Clarity will come. 

  • Don’t apologize for feeling unprepared at the start of a presentation. Don’t say “bear with me” or “I just threw these slides together.” Don’t let insecurity take over. There are more powerful ways to start your presentation than with an apology. Jump in and start speaking as if you were prepared.  Keep your inner dialogue to yourself and stay in character. 

  • The most common place to break character is right at the end. That’s when your inner critic may be at its loudest. Everyone is looking at you and your instinct might be to doubt everything you just said. Don’t break your confidence right at the last note and send a signal of insecurity to the audience. Make your final impression count. End strong, breathe, and continue to exude confidence past the finish line.

  • Ignore the small mistakes. Like a gymnast stumbling mid-routine, or a musician playing the wrong note: keep going. Don’t draw attention to mistakes. For example, if you can’t find the right word, abandon the search and say the sentence a different way. Speaking is constant improvising, and mistakes are to be expected. If you don’t care about them, nobody else will either. 

What are the benefits of staying in character?

One benefit of staying in character is that your audience will perceive you as confident, even if you’re not. This behavior is a mindset you can adopt rather than a state of being to develop throughout the years. You can start staying in character right away. Staying in character will let people focus on the best version of your message, instead of being distracted by what you think they’re thinking about your nerves or anxiety. 

But the greatest benefit is your improved speaking ability. When you know that mistakes and unforeseen circumstances are not unfortunate problems but actually an integral part of the chaos of impromptu speaking, you’re not shy to avoid it. Staying in character will allow you to use a bigger range, and paradoxically, you’ll also probably make fewer mistakes.

What are strategies to stay in character?

1. Don’t criticize your speaking while you speak

Most nervous speakers feel the temptation to reveal their anxiety in hopes of lessening the tension. They think if they call attention to their anxiety first, their audience will be more forgiving. It softens the blow of failure.

But by doing this, you unintentionally invite them to listen to everything you say through that lens. When you are skeptical about your own words, your listeners will be too. You start off on the worst foot and stumble from the beginning.

You show your audience how to perceive you. With that in mind – be kind to yourself. Don’t judge yourself as you speak. Let your audience be entertained and relaxed with you, not adding to your increasing anxiety.

2. Embrace whatever happens

The best actors aren’t the ones who can deliver their lines flawlessly – the best actors are the ones that can improvise when things inevitably go wrong and still deliver an excellent performance. They make everything seem like it’s part of the plan. 
This is the same for speakers. Great speakers aren’t perfect speakers – great speakers are great recoverers.

Whether it’s a distraction in your environment, a slip-up in what you say, or your mind going blank: embrace it. It doesn’t have to ruin your speaking. It can even make your speech better – a speaker publicly handling a distraction well only makes you look more impressive.

3. Don’t hold back

One of the most common crutches nervous speakers use is to cut corners during a speech. They avoid risks and stick to a rigid script. It feels safer, and when you’re speaking in front of a large audience, it’s tempting to cling to anything that makes you feel safer.

Common questions

Isn’t it fake and inauthentic to stay in character?

A common concern around staying in character is that it seems fake – you’re putting on an act or a show that isn’t truly you. Isn’t it more charming and endearing to be honest and share your nerves? Won’t your audience like you more if you admit you’re facing your fear of public speaking? 

The short answer: yes! 

But for the majority of speakers, it’s not a deliberate choice to share their anxieties. They feel compelled to. Staying in character lets you take away these automatic defense mechanisms that only result in making you look and feel worse. When you don’t have to rely on defenses, you can be fully yourself and speak freely.


Staying in character is not “fake confidence”, pretending to be something you’re not.  Rather, staying in character is built on having healthy self-talk, believing that you look confident by default, and accepting mistakes as a natural part of speaking. Staying in character doesn’t just make you look better; it helps you speak better. It’s the top mindset that separates amateurs from expert speakers and professionals.

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