Coffee or tea: Prior to a presentation, your body under stress naturally produces adrenaline to help you out by releasing glucose directly into the blood stream and by making you keenly aware of what is happening in and around you. That is why you become so self-conscious about your arms, your feet, your hands, and sometimes wonder where to put them! Coffee and tea contain caffeine, which signals your kidneys to release even more adrenaline. Drinking coffee or tea is not wise. But how about milk?
Milk: The milk protein thickens natural mucus, such as saliva. Your anxiety may overproduce saliva which, combined with milk, thickens. As a result, your vocal chords feel as though something is getting in their way. They trigger a throat clearing reflex while you are presenting. And the sound-trapping lapel microphone you are wearing takes great pleasure in amplifying that unromantic sound to nauseating levels over the room speakers.
OK. So coffee is out. You are about to present. The glass in front of you is empty. You are a bit nervous and you think that drinking might water down that anxiety of yours. The stainless steel pitcher of icy water glistening on the small table by the lectern looks so refreshing. Condensation sends rivulets of crystalline water down its slippery sides. Your hand moves towards the pitcher, and… STOP AND THINK.
Iced Water: Bad for your vocal chords. You need to warm them prior to a talk by speaking, not by drinking icy water. Drinking warm water is better for you.
The next day. You are also to present on behalf of your manager who missed his flight. His talk is right after lunch. The morning drags on but lunch finally arrives, and you are famished. You look at the buffet set out for the conference participants, and you see an irresistible spaghetti Bolognese dish between the roasted spuds with braised pork and the broccoli/cauliflower/mushroom/sweet peas mix. You take the spaghetti serving spoon and lift it as carefully as a crane would lift its cargo prior to depositing it on your plate... STOP AND THINK.
Spaghetti: The reason why the best restaurants offer a special towel for people who eat spaghetti is because the probability of decorating your white Armani blouse or shirt with red tomato sauce is fairly high. To wash the stain away only contributes to spread it or, given enough water, to give you that wet T-shirt look. All this, right before your presentation, of course, with no time to change clothes. To prevent the audience from seeing the red stain, you will try to hide it in a number of creative ways while speaking. For example, you may face the wall standing sideways, or turn your back to the audience, thus reducing eye contact with the audience. You could also use your free hand to hold some document in front of you during the whole talk instead of using it to punctuate your speech with gestures.
You return the spaghetti serving spoon to the dish and instead pile up less dangerous food on your plate. After all, you are famished. Yet, somehow, you eat faster than usual, probably because of the stress and the need to return to the conference room before others... STOP AND THINK,
Eating fast: Eating fast creates a number of conditions, none of them helpful to the presenter, namely gas, reflux, and bloating. Your belt, which until then kept your garment comfortably in place, turns into a vice that compresses your diaphragm and affects the quality of your voice. Do not forget the stomach air and food gulps ascending your esophagus tube in total disregard of the law of gravity, and the intestinal borborygmi constantly calling themselves to your attention. They both create discontinuities in your speech and generate audience-repelling noises greatly amplified by your lapel mike.
Food for thought:
food can adversely affect how well you present.
By Jean-Luc Lebrun