by Peter Watts
Something peculiar happens to the throat while public speaking; its moist lining is replaced by sandpaper, and the voice, that essential presentation tool, asphyxiates to a rasp.
In the same way that it’s important for presenters to manage food intake, it’s also important to be aware of water intake, while avoiding caffeinated drinks such as coffee, which actually inhibit the ability to speak clearly. It’s a cruel twist that even though presentation nerves suppress our appetite for food, our appetites for caffeine become unquenchable. Even light coffee drinkers develop a conjoined relationship with the nearest coffee cup!
As well as acting as vocal lubricants, liquids swiftly enter our blood stream, so it’s important to be aware of what they do for us and to us during presentations:
A dry throat caused by tension needs to be relieved by sipping water. Have your water close at hand during your presentation and always carry your own small bottle with you, just in case water isn’t provided.
You’ll find the reassurance of simply knowing you have a source of water nearby reduces the risk of your voice drying out.
Hot drinks are frequently offered to us pre-presentation, and, as we’ll see in a later blog, can be very calming. Caffeinated drinks however should be avoided for three reasons:
- Caffeine is a stimulant and more stimulant to top up your adrenalin is the last thing you need
- Caffeine tenses the vocal chords so the voice tires more rapidly
- Caffeine is diuretic. You may feel like you’re taking in liquid, but it’s actually making you expel far more than you retain
De-caffeinated drinks are fine, and many presenters drink plain hot water if it’s easily available.
Energy Drinks and Sodas
AVOID! Soda is gassy, and when presenting, gassy is never good. I once discovered this for myself when attached to a radio microphone in front of 300 people at a trade show!
Energy drinks meanwhile contain enough caffeine to wide-eye a stallion. They might be promoted as “natural stimulants”, but so are many class A drugs, and those aren’t recommended either! Remember the balance of stimulants already racing round your body. Avoid adding others to the mix.
Sadly, alcohol is in the never-before-a-presentation category. Even a single glass of wine will interfere with your judgment. This needs to be kept in mind especially for anyone who is after-dinner speaking.
That rosy glow of contentment is best experienced after your presentation, not during!
For more ideas on how to control presentation nerves, try the following Presenters’s Blog posts: