Coffee is so common most people would not think twice about consuming caffeine and public speaking. In fact, most people will demand coffee as an essential agent to perk you up before speaking in public.
Too Much Caffeine And Public Speaking Disasters
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?
Impact Of Caffeine And Public Speaking
When we focus on giving a talk or presentation, the main thing we worry about is what we are going to say, not our voice during the presentation.
When we are speaking in public we will worry about the “ums” and “ahs” that can be a distraction but few people outside singers have ever focused on their vocal chords and the projection of their voice.
I can’t sing “Happy Birthday” on key and it has always bothered me. So I spent the time and money on 2 months of vocal lessons. I found a few things:
1. I don’t sing off key, I’m off pitch
2. If you can speak well, you can sing
3. Your voice can be impacted by what you eat and drink
Speak Publicly With A Strong Engaging Voice
I’ve never had any trouble with public speaking. I’m able to project my voice well even when the microphones have failed. I try to deliver my topic in an interesting way and I’ve been told on several occasions I’m the best speaker of the day.
But there have been days I’ve felt like I’ve done better or worse than other days and I was never sure why until I took voice training.
As far as not being able to sing. I found I actually can. Just not to the high notes that I was always trying to hit. Come to find out my voice is an alto. The lowest range for a female singer. Most songs on the radio, and most female voice in general, are at least one, maybe two, vocal ranges above where I can sing. Alto is actually fairly rare for women. But get me down in that range and I can belt out a song exactly on key. Try to get me in the higher ranges and I fail miserably. But that’s true of everyone. Very few singers can perform outside a single vocal range.
That’s why I had no trouble projecting my voice as I talked. The vocal range was there because I was talking in a vocal range that my voice choice, not some sheet music.
But the times I felt my voice fail during a presentation turned out to be because of the food I had consumed. Or rather the drink. I don’t like to eat before I give a talk. Turns out that probably worked in my favor. But the times I’ve had afternoon slots, I have found myself struggling.
In fact, there is solid research to back this up. Caffeine will impact blood pressure and simulate the same stress you would have public speaking. So caffeine and public speaking would give you a double dose of stress!
Turns out it was a combination of lunch and feeling heavy from a meal. But also the fact I was probably on my 3rd cup of coffee before those presentations.
Coffee has two things that can strangle your speaking voice: caffeine and milk.
Caffeine can either perk you up or it can leave you completely wired. Or worse, as in the case of afternoon presentations, it can leave you fighting against the afternoon caffeine slump that makes you exhausted, unfocused, and generally not your best.
And to make it worse, you are probably presenting to an audience going through the same thing!
Milk is a problem because it increases mucus in the back of the nose and throat. It can make your voice unclear and cause you to clear your throat or cough more often. It’s distracting but also potentially harmful to your vocal cords. If you want something to drink before you talk, reach for water. Room temperature water is actually best, it’s what singers use.
They are also careful about things like strong mints that can also impact your vocal chords. And smoking. That’s also bad for your voice.
While most of us will never be on the radio as a singer, it could still help us professionally if we cared as much about our vocal cords as we do what we talk about when we speak publicly. Caffeine and public speaking should definitely not be combined to ensure you perform at your best.
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