For starters, this isn’t a diet. It is just some suggestions based on my experience. It won’t make you skinny or healthy, but it might support you in different areas of presenting. “Should I eat before giving a presentation?” is too simple a question to ask. So, what should public speakers eat?
Foods to Avoid:
Remember that the goal here is to combat stage fright, keep a clear mind, and feel light and energized when we deliver.
Caffeine – Please don’t close the page…I love coffee too. I’m even guilty of drinking it before speaking – (Last night, latte, 30-min before stage time). If your stage fright and presentation style is not disturbed by a frappa-frappa red-eye, then by all means, go for it. On the other hand, if you are prepared, seasoned, and a superb improviser who still feels knocking knees sweaty palms, maybe it’s time to experiment with water instead of 5-hour energy shots.
Sugar and Carbs – Man, I sound like the devil right now. Stay with me. I’m not promoting the Atkins diet, or the removal of sugar and carbs from your meals. Just try to avoid them within 12 hours (ok, 6 hours) before you speak. Remember, you will already have the holy grail of energy pumping through you – Adrenaline! Carbs break down into sugar, and sugar, like caffeine is a drug. The energy/drug cocktail of caffeine, sugar, carbs and adrenaline will make you shake faster than an epileptic Chihuahua in front of a strobe light.
Dairy, Meats, and Processed Fats – I’m not a big fan of dairy to begin with. It causes excess mucus (yuck) and it is heavy in the belly. Stay away from milk, cheeses, and other dairy rich products. Meat takes forever to digest and if you eat it before you perform, you are going to take the stage with a stomach full of heavy, undigested meat. You will be as light an airy as Bessie the Cow. That goes triple for processed fats such as chips, cakes, fast food or any other processed garbage that is cheap and fast.
Foods to Eat:
Finally! Let’s get to the good stuff and munch away!
Water – Stay hydrated. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and it begins as soon as you wake up on the morning of your presentation. Drinking water all day will help you fight anxiety, dry mouth, and it will regulate your awareness of the need to urinate, which is super important because you don’t want to have to pee during a talk.
Almonds – Really, all nuts are great, but almond are my favorite. Nuts are like little perfect energy boosters without the baggage. They are easy to conceal, so during a long presentation you can always find a moment when the audience is distracted to pop a few into the mouth followed by a swig of water.
Vegetables – During the day of your presentation, eat as many and as much variety as you like. Be careful with salad dressings. Keep it simple and be smart. During your presentation, go with short and thin to win; baby carrots, celery sticks, cucumber sticks, and anything that you can cut into a thin little stick and shove into a sandwich bag.
Tea – While there is debate about tea, I think non-caffeinated teas such as chamomile and jasmine are great for the night before a presentation. They help us relax and get a good night sleep, and sleep is by far the most important preparation gift we can give ourselves.
Know Your Body
Ultimately, we are all different and unique. The above suggestions are only guidelines that work for me. If you work fine on a belly full of pork chops, then go for it. Maybe you need a cup of Joe for that morning burst of energy before a presentation. I’m not a nutritionist, and I don’t think that any one diet or meal plan works for everybody. Consult with a physician before starting a new diet. Talk to a nutritionist. Read, read, and read some more. Inform yourself, and pay attention to the most important diet tool of all – your body and mind.