Do you recognize this scenario?
You start to walk to the podium and you suddenly feel panicked that you have an extremely dry mouth and you’re expected to deliver a speech in a minute! Has this ever happened to you? Or you gulp uncomfortably to clear your throat just when you ought to be saying something important in a meeting. It’s an awkward and embarrassing feeling.
Many speakers have found themselves in this unexpected pickle.
Ryan Seacrest recently confessed in an article in NY Times magazine that he suffered from the same uncomfortable situation: that a persistently parched mouth plagued him.
I too have suffered (and learned) from a similar experience. Many years ago, as I was rushing out the house to deliver a seminar, I gulped down a few forkfuls of delicious sesame noodles that I’d bought my kids for dinner. Yummy! But as I began delivering the seminar I could feel my mouth gummed together as a result of the peanutty sesame sauce. And worst of all, I had no water available. Never again!
Always, always have water available to you. You just never know when your mouth will go dry as a speaker. Anxiety can also do that to you. It happens to all of us at some time.
Take a break, pause, reach for a drink and take a sip of water. The audience will forgive you if you respond in a natural and casual manner. Take a step, reach for the water, place your glass down carefully, turn, smile and resume your talk. Make it effortless!
Please don’t try to hide it or cover it up. That is simply awkward. The audience can tell when a speaker’s mouth is dry and we agonize for you. Deal with it with grace and in a casual manner.
Witness the uncomfortable surreptitious water-sip by poor suffering Mark Rubio during the State of the Union Response:
For a speaker, the lesson to remember is:
- Keep your mouth fresh before a speech (brush teeth or rinse with mouthwash – it keeps the saliva fresh)
- Always have water within reach. Preferably in a glass. Unscrewing a bottle cap is an extra unnecessary step.
- Act as if it’s the most natural thing in the world to need a sip.
- Incorporate it in your speech. Pause, take a step towards the water, pick up the glass and replace the water with care, and continue with your talk.
Take a sip; you’re human.
Please feel free to share your worst dry mouth story!