Dry mouth during public speaking
SUMMARY: Public speaking can be a doozy for your mouth, since all that jibber jabber dries out salivary glands. Read how to prevent dry mouth when in the spotlight.
Posted: April 28, 2014
Gazing out in front of a large audience before making a speech can be a stressful moment for many people. If you feel that sort of anxiety that is often accompanied by dry mouth, shaky hands and a quickened heart rate, you're not alone. Public speaking is one of the most common anxieties reported by adults, and dry mouth is part of the many fight-or-flight stress symptoms well-known to public orators.
The best solution: Hydrate. Keep a bottle of water on the podium, and take sips to wet your mouth and kick-start your salivary glands. There's nothing unprofessional about hydrating during a speech - politicians, celebrities and other performers do it all the time. The key is to do it at the right time. Pace your quenching when the spotlight is not on you, as constant slurping can be a distraction for audience members. Sip when an attendee is asking a question or a presentation slide is being shown. Incorporate breaks into your presentation when writing it.
Chances are you're much more aware of your oral desert than anyone you're addressing. Unless it's affecting your pronunciation of words, people won't care if there's a tumbleweed or monsoon blowing in there. Take a deep breath, relax and know you're going to do great. For those whose lips dry out during a speech, it's not a bad idea to use some moisturizing lip balm beforehand.
While all of this advice is true year-round, it's especially relevant during the month of April, which is National Poetry Month. When reciting Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" or Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," the last thing you want to happen is for your word-well to run dry. Neither road can be taken when the character can't travel off the lips of the speaker, so keep your mouth from being as parched as the parchment. Try drinking some water, swishing olive oil in the mouth before the speech - which leaves a protective coating on the tongue and back of throat to trap in moisture - or drink some citrus juice, which helps break down mucus that makes swallowing a challenge.
Some speakers, whether poets or actors, may prefer intimate settings, using the shock appeal of quick emphatic approaches to audience members. Yet dry mouth often comes with bad breath, and getting too close with halitosis can be almost as awful as burning books to literary fans.
From April through the rest of the year, use these tricks to jump the hurdle of public speaking.