Should you have a drink before speaking in public?
Dealing with nerves
Is it ever a good idea to have ‘just the one, to steady my nerves…’?
You may think you’re more fluent, confident, relaxed and amusing after a drink.- but no. You’re not.
This is you making a judgement while your judgement is impaired.
So why do people want to drink before speaking, and what effect does alcohol have on the speaker – and their audience?
The only reason people really want a drink before standing up in front of an audience is to deal with the fear, and numb those nerves.
But any performer needs to have that frisson, that ‘sense of occasion,’ the feeling that they are about to leap off the edge of a cliff. Kill that energy with alcohol and it will never have the chance to power your performance.
Alcohol relaxes muscles, yes, and being able to relax in a controlled way is important for the public speaker. But it’s control over the complex muscles that govern your breathing, speaking, diction, gestures and so on that you’ll start to lose as soon as you let some of that control go out of your hands and over to alcohol. And with it will go that all-important sharp thinking and focussed concentration that the public speaker needs.
If you lose control of these to any degree you’ll lose control over the presentation, to the detriment of both your image and your message. The audience will be able to see, hear and even smell that you’ve been drinking.
So if you want a drink, have it as a reward after you’ve given a sharp, clear-headed and clearly-delivered speech. If it’s a social event, the guests may be too drunk to notice, but you’ll perform better for it.
And of course any video of the event will be a permanent record of you doing well.
More about eating and drinking before public speaking here
Here’s the evidence … Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory proves just why drinking before speaking is a bad thing …
Speaking Well in Public offers public speaking courses at all levels, which address how best to deal with nerves.