Limit Your Caffeine Intake Before Public Speaking!

With all the material on the internet about public speaking, there is scant information about what you should put into your body before your walk to the lectern. Should you eat, should you drink, should you have a meal before your speech or presentation? While this is very individual, by and large, it would be wise to limit your food and beverage intake before the big event. The question here, though, is whether coffee can be detrimental?

When I first started my business some years ago, I was hired to speak at a convention in London, Ontario, to 400 realtors. I was nervous; I was excited; and, I was thrilled to have this opportunity.

Not scheduled to speak until 2 pm in the afternoon, I was requested to arrive at the convention center at noon to check my equipment. This left me with almost 2 hours to ‘kill.’ During the wait, I went out with a friend and proceeded to drink copious amounts of coffee at a nearby Tim Horton’s.

When the time finally arrived for me to speak, I was absolutely wired. In a normal situation, I could speak for three days on voice training and presentation skills and probably be able to continue for a fourth! But after my opening with this crowd, I had no idea how to continue. That presentation was definitely the longest hour of my life.

This was the one and only time when caffeine took hold and I was in misery trying to keep focused on what I wanted to say. The only thing that could have been worse would have been a need to use the ladies room!

Luckily my audience was totally unaware of my stress and my inability to concentrate. I had had enough experience in public speaking that I was able to wing it ‘well enough.’ Admittedly, my pauses were sometimes quite ‘pregnant,’ but I managed to get through those 60 minutes without a major mistake and without embarrassment. As a professional speaker, however, I am not satisfied with ‘well enough.’ I was mad at myself.

What I learned from that presentation was to never overdose on coffee again. Too much of anything is a mistake; too much caffeine, however, can produce jitters that will exacerbate your nervousness.

Nervousness is excellent because that rush of adrenaline can actually work in your favor, taking your presentation to a whole new level. But you must first learn how to control your nervousness so that it works for you and not against you. In my situation, too much coffee meant that I had difficulty concentrating which only added to my nervousness.

I survived that interminable hour but I learned a very important lesson from that experience. One cup of coffee is fine, a pot of coffee is not!

The next time you are scheduled to speak, watch your coffee intake as well as all other caffeinated beverages. Avoid milk and do not drink alcohol. Stick to water and limit your intake. Remember that too much of anything is never good in public speaking!

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