Should You Drink Coffee Before a Presentation?

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Coffee is considered the most popular hot beverage in the world. Weighing the positive and negative effects of drinking it on our bodies is something that has the potential to divide a room. 

Mind you, coffee lovers are fierce about their preferences!

Drinking coffee before a speech or presentation is quite normal especially if you’re a regular coffee drinker. In case you have anxiety or extreme fear before speaking in front of crowds, coffee will do more harm than good. A fruit or a small snack is a safer option if you’re not comfortable on stage.

Why should you consider drinking coffee before a presentation?

As the one billion coffee drinkers worldwide (it’s true, we checked the statistics!) would agree, lending help from a cup of coffee in your day has proven miraculously helpful to make it better. 

How, you may ask? That’s because coffee contains caffeine, the most common psychoactive substance consumed out there. It is a Central Nervous System stimulant, which basically means it fastens up the process of exchange of messages between your brain and body.

Not to get too scientific, but some effects of coffee as a result of chemical reactions would be high energy levels, alertness, lower risks of diseases, and it also affects your mood!

Apart from this, it has high levels of antioxidants and beneficial nutrients that make it a very alluring drink to get into the habit of. 

What is the science behind drinking coffee before a presentation?

Most of us don’t mind grabbing a cup of espresso while heading to work almost every day for that extra bit of boost. But is it really a good idea when you have that big deal to crack, or that conference where you have to speak or give a speech in front of an audience?

For a large segment of the population, Public Speaking is a very anxiety-inducing activity. Apart from those who are ‘naturally gifted’, it accompanies a lot of stress. 

Biologically speaking, any situation that causes stress produces a very common physiological response in the body, it’s called the fight/flight phenomenon. In this, the body perceives the upcoming stressful situation as a ‘threat’ and prepares a, as the name suggests, fight or flight reaction.

The reason we speak of this is caffeine tends to accelerate this feeling. Stress accompanied by adrenaline is a recipe for disaster. 

Let’s say you’re not used to speaking in front of crowds and you consume coffee before going up, the above-mentioned series of reactions would render you in a state of mental confusion.

Because stress and adrenaline are highly physiological concepts, your body would give you mixed signals, which is… well, not very ideal, to say the least.

Pros & Cons of drinking coffee before a presentation

As a matter of fact, there are several advantages and disadvantages to drinking coffee! If you’re a regular coffee drinker and cannot function without it, it goes unsaid that you’d need some of that caffeine kick before you crack that performance. 

Besides, there are upsides to drinking coffee too! Let’s dive into the advantages first. 

Advantages

Consuming a reasonable amount of coffee well before the presentation can give you the following benefits:

Improved cognition

The antioxidants that coffee comes filled with ensure better cognitive function. They enhance our ability to handle the fight/flight response mentioned above and also boost the function of our neurotransmitters.

Essentially, this is one of the most useful advantages of drinking coffee, it improves our brain’s ability to function.

Spontaneity

Drinking coffee can result in helping you think faster, which in turn can massively impact your ability to be spontaneous.

A presentation involves interaction and back and forth of questions and answering, consuming coffee can help you nail those spontaneous application-based questions!

Articulation

It is quite obvious that the ability to think faster comes with more than just one benefit. In addition to gathering your thoughts fast, you also are able to choose better words to be more articulate.

Being articulate helps your rapport in a professional environment. Of course, coffee doesn’t magically give you new words, it only helps your brain fetch the most appropriate ones from the archive of words you already know.

That extra mile of confidence

This doesn’t come as a surprise. As discussed above, coffee contains caffeine, which helps with the regulation of adrenaline. And we all know adrenaline could be called the cousin of confidence. 

With the above-mentioned advantages, it is no wonder drinking coffee essentially brings a lot of confidence, something you most definitely need for a presentation. 

Disadvantages

Every coin has two sides after all. All these amazing benefits not only come at a cost, but they also accompany some risks too. Following are the disadvantages of drinking coffee before a presentation:

Quality

Yes, there are different qualities of coffee beans. If your coffee is made out of overripe beans, it can exert ill effects on your body and overall health.

Some of these side effects include headache, a general feeling of nausea, and even sickness. 

It’s very important that you choose your coffee wisely. Not only is that a hassle, but good quality coffee can also end up costing higher, leading to an additional expense. 

Digestive system

Drinking coffee exerts different effects on different people. For some people, it can activate the digestive system resulting in frequent trips to the bathroom. 

It doesn’t exactly look decent if you spend half the time in there instead of being in your presentation. 

Of course, you can do trial and error and see if it happens to your body in advance, but there’s no definite guarantee. Our bodies’ tendencies could alter.

Possibility of addiction

While it is tempting to lend some help from coffee for riding high on that wave of confidence, you must know that it is, at the end of the day, a very highly addictive drink.

DSM-VI (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) classifies the use of caffeine as a possible disorder. 

What’s more, is the withdrawal symptoms of this disorder cause sluggish behavior and can practically impact your life.

More importantly, in this context, you don’t want to end up depending on a drink every time you have to present something. It can become toxic for your self-esteem. 

Anxiety

As mentioned above, if you’re someone prone to getting anxious in public situations, drinking coffee will only intensify your nerves further, making the situation worse.

Well, with the major advantages and disadvantages out of the way, let’s move on to the questions at hand.

What will happen if I drink too much coffee before a presentation?

Drinking too much coffee can exhibit some serious physiological effects. Some of these include being anxious, uncontrolled energy bursts, feeling jittery.

Giving a presentation is an activity that requires your focus and attention, you are supposed to be in control of your mind and not the other way round. Too much caffeine in your body would lead you to lose control. 

And since this is already a stress-inducing activity, it can also add to your nerves. 

Worst case scenario could be you shivering throughout the presentation as a result of anxiety and stress, not being able to maintain eye contact, fumbling in your speech, and since caffeine shuts down your digestive system and makes your mouth dry very quickly, you might be coughing very often. 

Losing track of time is something very common in a situation like this. If you’re someone who struggles with that, we wrote an article about 11 Steps to Help You Keep Time During Your Presentation. Do check it out!

How do I decide if I should drink coffee before a presentation?

Firstly, it is not imperative that you rely on coffee for your presentation. After all the aforementioned effects it can have on your body, it is better to steer clear of it. 

But if you’re a regular coffee drinker and want to figure out the amount you should consume, I have two words: Experiment and Analyse. One thing you can do to find out if you can rely on caffeine for public speaking is to try it beforehand. The key factor here is your level of stress. Read that again, not just stress, your level of stress. 

That’s where experimenting comes in. Coffee works differently for different people. Surprisingly, it can make people drowsy too. Some people drink it right before sleeping. Now obviously, if you’re one of these people, it is NOT a good idea to drink it before a presentation. 

Try drinking your regular amount of coffee and rehearse the presentation (preferably in front of your friends, having an audience helps), see if you feel the jitters, and how it affects your stress levels. If you exhibit any of the above-mentioned jitters, confusion, etc, you know you need to steer clear.

Try another round without coffee. Analyze what makes you feel more comfortable and makes you think clearly. If you think you function fine enough without it, then nothing like it! It’s always better to rely on your own self than a beverage for your confidence, right?

If you need help to get off using coffee to keep you focused, here’s an article of ours that might help you:- 8 Tactics to Deal With Distractions When You’re Speaking on Stage.

Tips to keep in mind, incase you choose to drink coffee 

-If you do decide to drink coffee before a presentation, make sure you do it well in advance, maybe an hour before the presentation.

-Do a trial run 15 minutes after drinking coffee, it prepares your body with some practice for the upcoming stressful situation.

-This is the most important. Always stay hydrated. Keep a bottle of water next to you throughout the presentation, no matter what. 

Alternatives to coffee, incase you need something to drink before a presentation

If you absolutely need a drink to kick you into work mode, but you also don’t want to consume copious amounts of caffeine, here are a bunch of alternatives that can help

Green tea

While it isn’t an absolutely caffeine-free drink, it contains way less than your regular cup of coffee, plus it also has similar benefits like improving mental cognition.

Lemon water

A glass of lukewarm temperature water with half a lemon squeezed into it would do wonders in rejuvenating you. Add on a bunch of mint leaves and you’d be fresh as ever to kick that presentation!

Milk

Don’t worry, I don’t just mean just plain milk. Adding spices to warm milk like turmeric or cinnamon can prove really beneficial for your overall health. They are claimed to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Black tea

Now this is the closest you can come to substituting the effects of caffeine. Black tea is claimed to improve mental alertness (along with other benefits like reduced risk of heart diseases)

Warm water

That’s correct. Some good old super warm water is a very good option to chose before a presentation. It soothes nerves and prepares your throat for all the talking. Plus it hydrates you.

Conclusion

While coffee is a beautifully curated drink that seems to have magical powers, it’s important to keep in mind the ill effects it carries. 

Drinking it in the right amount can do wonders, yes. But one has to trudge slightly so as to not entirely depend on it for carrying out basic functions of the day. 

Having said that, it is a customizable drink. Works differently on different bodies. It’s all a matter of trial and error until you find YOUR right quantity. 

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