Are you among the many (MANY) people who like to “take the edge off” before giving a speech with a drink or two? Whether you’re giving a speech at a corporate gala, acting as emcee for an event, or making a toast at a wedding, a quick drink before taking the microphone is a common coping mechanism. But that doesn’t make it a good coping mechanism.
Then there’s also the matter of having drinks pushed on you. It doesn’t seem to matter if the occasion is a corporate event or a social gathering, it’s pretty common for people to offer drinks to anyone who is giving a speech.
Today we’re going to look at the perennial question as to whether or not you can – or should – tipple before your talk. We’ll also look at how to gracefully avoid or deflect offers of booze from well meaning hosts or attendees.
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Now it’s over to you! What’s your personal limit for drinks before giving a speech (mine is zero…I’m a lightweight!)? Do you have any good replies or strategies for fending off unwanted drink offerings? Leave your comments down below.
Welcome to Talk Shop Q&A, the place where we get to dive into your questions about everything public speaking and communications. Today’s question is from Paul, who asks:
I’m giving a speech at a business event, and I’ll admit that I’m nervous about it. Can I have a drink during the event’s cocktail hour beforehand to take the edge off?
Paul, Paul, PAUL! This is a question I get so often, and it’s actually a very reasonable one to ask.
Before I answer it, though, I want to be clear that I’m going off the assumption that you only drink in moderation and don’t use alcohol as a coping mechanism.
Lots of business and personal events can involve alcohol, and if you’re feeling jittery about the talk or speech or toast you have to give, it can be tempting to have that one drink to take the edge off.
My personal guideline regarding drinking and speaking is “NO! NEVER DRINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK!”
You want to be stone cold sober when it’s time to give your speech, and if you’ve “taken the edge off” with a glass of vino or some spirits, then you’re at the least a little bit tipsy!
Here’s the thing: you don’t want to take the edge off, especially with booze.
That edge – the little shot of nerves before you speak – can help you be sharper and perform better when you take the microphone. And you certainly don’t want to unnecessarily dull your wits or brain even in the slightest before you go to speak.
Now what this is really about is understanding your tolerance and limits.
I’m a lightweight – it doesn’t take a lot for me to feel the effects of alcohol, so I don’t touch it before a speech. Others are more tolerant than I, but you need to be very honest with yourself and not let pride of machismo get in the way of sensibility.
Most people assume they can handle more booze then they can, so I find it’s safest to not have a drop until after your speech is over.
I know that sometimes there’s a lot of pressure to drink at different events. I often get well-meaning people pushing drinks on me before I speak out of a sincere wish to be hospitable.
But just because the drink is offered, you don’t need to take it – even if you really want to. If you are feeling self-conscious about turning down a drink or about not having one in hand, here are some easy strategies.
If someone asks if you want a drink, be honest – just say “No thanks, I don’t drink before I speak” or simply order something non-alcoholic. Or if you’re feeling pressured to drink, have something non-alcoholic in a glass and if someone asks if they can get you a drink, just say “no thanks, I’ve already got one”. Ginger ale or cola in a highball glass works great for this.
Then, once your speech is over, celebrate with that forbidden glass of red. It’ll feel that much more indulgent.
Thanks for your question Paul, I hope it helps. And now I’d love to hear from you – what’s your favorite booze free drink at a party? Let me know in the comments below. Be sure to click that like button below and subscribe to my channel.
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Thanks so much for watching, and I’ll see you on the next Talk Shop Q&A.