Do You Wet Your Whistle Before A Presentation?

Water, the Hub of Life

The other week my client was really nervous before his opening talk at a conference and I was giving him my pre-sound-check emergency combatting nerves tips; breathe, move around, shake out your shoulders to release tension.  

“Oh, and remember the water!” I teased him.

‘Yeah, right” he answered half listening and focussed on his notes.

“Remember Mr F – the water?  If we forget to put a fresh glass out – just grab mine!”

I was also speaking at the conference and I’d already lined up my 2 litre bottle and poured my emergency water into a large glass by the stage.

“Oops, he’d better listen” I thought.  I knew he was nervous and worried about his mind going blank (that’s normal).

We’d created safety nets and had everything ready to go but I knew that fateful rubber-band-dry-mouth thing would happen if he didn’t have his water strategy sorted!

When you’re nervous, the first thing to go is …..your saliva! 

Here’s the science bit, so if ever need to speak with a microphone listen to this

….. anxiety activates your fight or fight system so your body may take fluids - like saliva and water - and move them to the areas they feel need them more.

Eew! Yuk, but it’s true.

It’s the one thing the audience WILL notice and it’s the one thing you will not be able to control unless you have oodles of WATER – pints of it.  A whole river.

Years ago, my very entertaining friend at the BBC Simon Lederman used to take in 10 cups of water into the studio with him before his radio show.  He hated dry mouth – rubber band syndrome.  

So I told my anxious Mr F why water is so critical when speaking:


  • Drink Water – loads of it! 
  • 2 pints at least
  • Anxiety will give you a dry mouth.  

Your saliva will disappear and your mouth will start clicking and getting all clammy and sticky sounding – it’s not a beautiful thing to listen to or watch!



  • Have ice cold water! This will make your lovely warmed up vocal chords freeze up!  Back to square one!
  • Do not think Dutch Courage (alcohol) will help you –no, on no – yes I’ve tried a small drab or even half a glass of wine and failed on this one. Any alcohol before speaking is a no- no.   You NEED your brain to be sharp.

Ah ha you’re thinking – a nice caffeine hit….. coffee? 

  • No No No -  DO NOT drink anything with caffeine in it. Your heart rate will go up and your brain is likely to go into fight, flight or freeze mode even more!

You see, calming water is the only answer.

  • Also avoid sugar – this is likely to make your mouth sticky and cloggy- ugh!

What happened to my client? 

He did notice the water eventually and did take a sip (yes as predicted, from my glass) and it saved him from drying up!  He even got a laugh – brilliant, so he had an extra second to take another sip later on.  Success!

He certainly won’t underestimate the power of lubrication again! 

So there you have it, lovely water (room temperature is best so your vocal chords don’t clam up). It will save you the embarrassment of slicky - cloggy mouth!

I love helping my clients nail their speeches.  So if you need to have the edge and make an impact in front of your audiences; at conferences, to staff at that town hall style meeting, on camera for the media or in front of the dreaded interview panel, I can help finesse your speech and calm you down with simple tips like drinking water.

Contact me immediately so we can make a plan!

Here’s to your next pint (of water) cheers!


Esther Stanhope