One of the number one things you’ll get told as an emerging public speaker is to “just slow down” when you’re talking in front of a crowd. But inside of our brains, being told to “slow down” often has the opposite effect. Why is that?

According to psychologist Daniel Wegner, being told not to do something, or suppress a specific thought, often ends up having the opposite effect. This is known as the “ironic process theory”. It’s the classic, “don’t think of a pink elephant,” adage that of course sends our brains immediately to a rosy colored mammal.

Being on stage, in a stressful situation is no different. When we’re speaking in front of a crowd, we tend to rush our speaking, in an attempt to get it over with! This is normal, and natural, and having someone in the crowd tell you to slow down won’t make a lick of difference.

But there is one thing that works, every single time: adding in a breath.

Sounds simple, right?

It is!

When developing scripts for speeches, or even when writing the slide deck, writing in where you’ll breathe, and then practicing those breaths makes all the difference.

Of course, not all breaths are created equal, and the importance of practicing quality diaphragmatic breathing is crucial to your success as a speaker, but even just writing in those breath marks throughout your script of slide deck notes can make a world of difference.