We all know the importance of practising before we give a presentation or talk. But sometimes you may not be so aware that what we eat and drink can have a big impact on our performance too.
So today I want to give you some tips into 2 things to consume before public speaking, and why they’re so important.
And if you skim this post and think you know these tips already: you might just find a couple of tweaks that can make even more of a difference.
Pretty obvious one, right? We need to stay hydrated to think clearly. And also to stop the mucous membranes in our mouth and throat from drying out (which affects our voice). We lose water every time we breathe out or speak, and it needs to be replaced.
I know myself that when I run a workshop or give a talk, it’s crucial to drink enough water. Although there’s a balancing act here of course, so we don’t need to head for the toilet at the wrong time!
Here are a couple of things you may not be aware of:
- Room temperature. Even if you don’t love it – drink the water at room temperature. Chilled water has a bad affect on our vocal cords. It constricts them, so they “freeze”, and the muscles around the cords tighten up too.
- Dry mouth. If you suffer with ‘cotton wool’ mouth when you’re nervous (or in general), try squeezing a little pineapple juice into the water; this is a wind playing musician’s tip. It causes saliva production to increase, which helps to stop your tongue from sticking to the roof of your mouth, or similar horrors!
Your brain needs glucose – and lots of it. This from a Harvard Medical School article:
Glucose, a form of sugar, is the primary source of energy for every cell in the body. Because the brain is so rich in nerve cells, or neurons, it is the most energy-demanding organ, using one-half of all the sugar energy in the body. Brain functions such as thinking, memory, and learning are closely linked to glucose levels and how efficiently the brain uses this fuel source.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly can’t think clearly when I’m hungry. And when we’re low in glucose, we also lose the ability to properly regulate our emotions. Hence the term “hangry”! This makes speaking in public potentially even harder, because we’re more easily triggered in every emotional direction.
So it’s vital – even if you don’t feel like eating before you speak – to put some fuel into your body. Complex carbohydrates are the best, as we understand the many health challenges around glucose in the wrong forms.
Examples of complex carbs would be berries, bananas, whole grains.
These also help our nervous system to stay more calm and feel in control. Again if we think about how we feel when we consume a lot of sugar, it may give us an initial high…but we also tend to feel irritated and jittery. A bit like caffeine for a lot of people.
So I always recommend to clients, if there’s nothing suitable around and you need fuel to think clearly before you speak, then go for whatever gives you the sugar your brain needs. A lolly or similar is better than nothing if you’re desperate, and will definitely sharpen your thinking up when you need it.
But if you can plan ahead to avoid this, complex carbohydrates will give you both fuel and stable blood levels with a sense of control.
And when speaking in public, we all need to feel that sense of control!
Trusting that you’ve found these tips about 2 things to consume before public speaking helpful.
Best wishes with your speaking!