As I finalize preparing for my fall Appellate Writing and Advocacy course, and I think about our new moot court teams this year, I have been considering what makes for a top-notch oral argument.
One basic, and sometimes overlooked, concept is how to breathe when presenting an argument. This is something I think about, because I have spent a lot of time over the years singing in choirs. Anyone who has sung in a choir or done any voice training has heard about “diaphragmatic breathing.” This type of breathing supports the vocal cords fully. It’s also pretty close to the type of breathing taught in yoga classes.
When you breathe from your diaphragm muscle, your chest doesn’t move up and down vertically. Instead, your abdomen moves out horizontally, allowing for greater lung capacity. When you first learn how to breathe this way, it feels self-conscious and strange, but after a while, it can be second nature.
Diaphragmatic breathing, because it gives you greater lung capacity, allows you to project your voice better, and for longer periods of time. Being in control of your breath makes you in control of your voice, since your vocal cords are naturally tied to your breathing. This control in turn helps you to relax while you are speaking. More oxygen in your lungs also may provide you with more oxygen to your brain, giving you the mental edge.
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