I’m writing this blog post accompanied by one of my favourite drinks – a steaming hot cup of black coffee. Since I spent some time in Italy as a teenager, I’ve been totally obsessed by the ritual and taste of coffee in all its guises.
Many of us enjoy a cup of coffee to kick start our day. In fact for those who like to take part in races, a quick espresso before a session can make a good (legal) difference to your performance. That’s because coffee stimulates the production of adrenaline and quickens your heart rate, ideal if you are feeling a bit sleepy or sluggish. Try one before your next sports session and see how it feels.
But before a presentation or important meeting it is better all round for you to leave the coffee until afterwards. Why so? Many of us feel a surge of adrenaline before speaking in front of others – a primeval reaction commonly called flight/fight is provoked in our bodies as we perceive the up-coming situation as a threat, and our body wants to help us either fight it or run away from it. Coffee is therefore one of the least useful things to put into our bodies when we are already feeling nervous.
Added to that, it also dehydrates your vocal chords which is best avoided before using your voice. The fight/flight reaction shuts down your digestive system that in turn dries out your mouth, so contributing to this dehydration by adding coffee will make your mouth feel even drier. Top singers won’t drink a caffeinated beverage before a big performance as it dries out their most valuable instrument. Caffeine can also have a diuretic effect as well, and with the digestive system on shut down because of the fight/flight response this can have unwanted effects!
Our tone of voice is so important for making a good first impression so we encourage clients to work on their vocal warm up exercises instead of heading to the coffee shop. Working on your exercises puts you in better control of your situation as well so it has a double positive effect.
In conclusion don’t rule out coffee altogether, just save it as a reward for afterwards. Or if you really can’t function without one when you wake up leave it at least an hour before you do your talk. Your body and voice will thank you for it!
On days you don’t have a speaking gig we like to drink coffee in these places…..