How you fuel and nourish your body before you speak in public is equally important as practice and other preparations. Taking the stage on an empty stomach can be as bad as eating two slices of greasy pizza before stepping to the microphone. Experts advise that what you eat and drink before you speak be light and nutritious. No caffeine, fatty foods, and alcohol, lest your presentation be remembered for the wrong reasons.
Here is some advice on what to eat and drink and other tips for optimal performance when it is your turn to speak.
You are likely to get more dehydrated when you are nervous and under stress. So, hydration is key. Sip water that is warm or at room temperature to moisten your mouth and clear your throat before you begin. Ideally, add a wedge of lemon or lime to cut through any mucous buildup. Take small sips; do not gulp.
2. Place your water within easy reach.
Have a short glass of water or several small bottles comfortably near you. The 8-ounce size allows you to take a sip without tilting the bottle much and showing your nostrils to the audience. I use a straw in a glass for two reasons: to keep my lipstick fresh and to drink without tilting my head. Some people argue that drinking out of a straw causes extra air bubbles to form in your stomach, which may make you feel gassy, bloated, and uncomfortable. I still recommend it for purposes of hydrating during a presentation.
3. Take a nature break.
Before you present, make a pit stop at the restroom to deal with all the water you drank. While you are there, check your mouth for signs of what you had for lunch. Look for any traces of lipstick on your teeth.
4. Save the alcohol for later.
If you think that having a sip of wine before you speak will calm your nerves, you are mistaken. Any perceived benefit from alcohol before you present will be outweighed by the strong possibility of slurring, lack of focus, and outright embarrassment. Hold off on alcoholic drinks to celebrate after you deliver an amazing presentation.
5. Skip the carbonated drinks and coffee.
Carbonated drinks (soda) can cause gas, burping, and bloating. Caffeine is a diuretic (more bio breaks) that can also dry your vocal cords and make you jittery. You don’t need these distractions while delivering your presentation.
6. Eat things that are easy to digest.
You don’t want your stomach growling before you speak. Yet, you also don’t want to belch in the middle of a sentence. Eat lightly of foods that are not greasy, spicy, and heavy in your gut. A small salad and soup make a good meal before you take the stage. Avoid dairy products (cheese, yogurt, ice cream) that can build up phlegm in your throat and make you feel like you need to cough. Clearing your throat can hurt your vocal cords, drink water instead.
7. Avoid foods that may stick to your teeth.
I once gave a talk with a piece of kale between my front teeth. I was horrified when I saw the video recording. My best advice is to avoid nuts and crackers and thick leafy greens that may stick to your teeth. Check your mouth in a mirror before you step onto the stage or turn on your webcam and look for any stray leftovers from your last meal.
Other behaviors such as smoking and vaping, yelling, and screaming can hurt your voice. Take steps to protect your vocal instrument. Combine that voice with an energetic delivery so you can share your great ideas with the world.