What's the best drink to help you when you're giving a talk, or presenting? The answer may come as a surprise, writes Simon Hall...
Performance drinks for presentations
I’ve just got back from a trip to the lovely island of Guernsey.
It wasn’t a holiday but a work visit, helping the financial services industry with a couple of issues.
Guernsey is beautiful, and if you haven’t been I would strongly recommend it.
I always think every event or training session I do is important, but, as George Orwell might have said…
Some are more important than others.
And this was a big one, so I was very careful to ensure I performed at my peak.
(Or as near to a peak as a man of my age can manage, anyway!)
That meant all the usual preparation, getting my materials ready well in advance, arriving at the venue early, ensuring everything was in order.
But! I also like to make sure I’m in the best shape possible to perform, which means the right refreshments.
Prepare yourself for a shock here, particularly if you know me.
- For once, I am not talking beer.
Beer can come into the equation before a major event. But not much of it.
Perhaps just a pint to ease the nerves.
I also often recommend a glass or two of red wine the night before an event.
Apart from being relaxing, it helps to sharpen the voice, which is useful for delivery purposes.
But this isn’t a blog about alcohol. Surprising though that may be.
What I’m talking here is soft drinks, and how they can help you perform.
Some people swear by coffee before or during an event, but I find it can feel sticky in my mouth and inhibit my voice projection.
Others like energy drinks, but I think they can overdo the buzz, particularly when your system is already pumping with the adrenaline required to perform.
(And let's face it - no one likes a sweaty presenter!)
Water is the obvious choice for refreshment, and a safe bet, but I just find it a little thin.
So, after all this build up...
What do I recommend for peak performance in terms of being clear minded, energetic, and ready to react, and also for strong voice projection?
The answer is a good old-fashioned cup of tea.
Firstly, it gives you something to do with your hands.
That’s always useful when the nerves bite, to stop you just gesticulating like you're trying to attract the attention of a passing aircraft.
Secondly, it delivers just the right amount of energy to the system.
Thirdly, it keeps the mouth and throat well lubricated.
Fourthly, and this is a cute little trick:
If you lose your flow, and need a couple of seconds to work out what's coming next…
A sip of tea is the ideal disguise for the fact that you have no idea where you’re going.
Simple but smart, eh?!
There is one caveat here.
I recommend black tea.
I find milk also interferes with voice projection, whereas black tea works perfectly.
By the way, there is one final and very useful asset to having a mug of tea when you perform…
It takes me pretty much exactly half an hour to sip my way through it.
Which is usually about the duration of a talk, and which helps me keep on track if there are no obvious clocks around.
So here’s to a mug of black tea as the presenter's friend.
Unless you think or know different?
What would you recommend as the ideal performance drink when you are speaking, or presenting?
Feel free to get in touch... I’ll be fascinated to hear.
I'm a tutor, lecturer and coach in Communications and Business Skills at the University of Cambridge. I also run my own media, public relations and design consultancy, Creative Warehouse, work in government, and across the private and public sectors.
I can offer communications support in all areas, including:
Branding, reports, investment pitches, presentations and speech writing ~ Conventional and social media ~ Websites ~ Photography and videography ~ Public speaking ~ Crisis communications ~ Building your personal brand