the science of why you sweat while presenting on stage

The Science On Why You Sweat When Presenting and What to do About it?

Ever faced a situation where you were sweating profusely and were really uncomfortable on stage?

You would probably not want to face such a situation ever again!

But in order not to do so, we need to first understand what exactly is the reason behind sweating, and only then can we find solutions!

In this article, we will look at the phenomenon of sweating and why it happens.

Then, we will look at some of the possible solutions to stop or prevent sweating!

Let’s begin our journey of the Science on why you sweat when presenting and what to do about it!

Here is our game plan!

The science behind sweating

What is sweat made up of?

Sweat is made up of water and other chemicals such as sodium and chlorine.

So, in a way sweat is just salt water coming out of our body.

Why do we sweat?

When Hypothalamus, a small region in the Hindbrain gets activated, it signals the Apocrine glands located throughout our body, especially near the armpits and head region, to secrete sweat to cool the body down.

However, this gland also gets activated when we undergo psychological stress or when you become nervous.

What is psychological sweat a.k.a. emotional sweating?

Psychological Sweating, also known as emotional sweating, is triggered by stress, anxiety or fear.

This means that whenever we get emotionally aroused such as when we get nervous or get super excited, we would still sweat!

This is the reason why some people get cold hands just before their presentation because they are nervous or are super stressed, and they are stress sweating!

However, there might be a serious condition causing the sweat.

Social Anxiety Sweat

This happens when you undergo an excessive amount of stress and anxiety when interacting in a social setting.

Talking to new people or worse, speaking in front of an audience is your nightmare, and even thinking about it can result in an increased heart rate and sweating.

Some of you might think, what is wrong with sweating when it is just a body’s natural response? Here’s why you might consider avoiding this phenomenon on stage.

The problem of sweating on stage

If you are one of those who have stage fright or get anxious when speaking in front of people, you know how sweating increases the discomfort felt during making your presentation, distracting you now and then.

You constantly have to wipe off that sweat while talking, and it ends up distracting the audience as well.

Even if you are confident, sweat stains leave a bad impression on your audience, especially if you are giving a business presentation.

Worse, you might end up smelling bad too!

So, what are the possible solutions to fix this problem or to avoid sweating?

Let’s take a look at some of them.

What to do to avoid sweating when presenting on stage?

We have divided the section into 2 parts for better understanding: Natural or Internal solutions to sweating, and Chemical or External Solutions to sweating.

Natural or Internal solutions to avoid sweating when presenting

Bathe

Take A Bath!

There is no better solution than taking a bath to get rid of bacteria and germs on your body, that actually cause the sweat to smell.

Although you won’t avoid sweating, you would certainly avoid the smell and would also feel refreshed and ready for your presentation.

You can even go for a scented body scrub or body wash for long-lasting freshness!

The other amazing ingredient you can use is essential oils, such as Chamomile or Citrus oils, that would also rejuvenate your skin!

Sweat reducing foods

Count on these foods to reduce excessive sweating!

You read that right!

Sweat reducing foods are a thing!

Certain foods actually reduce sweat production naturally, hence, an organic option to go for!

Consuming foods that are high in water content such as Watermelon, Grapes, Broccoli, Spinach, Bell Pepper, and other foods such as Bananas, Dairy products, Almonds, Olive Oil, and simply Water can naturally stop you from sweating.

Avoid certain foods

Avoid garlic to sweat less!

Like how certain foods actually stop or reduce sweating, some foods increase or cause you to sweat.

As the picture suggests, any food that contains a lot of garlic, such as soups or sauces, Lasagna, or Pasta increases sweating.

Other foods such as fatty or fast foods, salty snacks, hot peppers, spicy foods, soups, alcohol, and coffee also increase body sweat.

You should consider avoiding these foods, at least before your speech, to avoid excessive sweating.

Chemical or External solutions to avoid sweating when presenting

Antiperspirant spray or deodorants

Get Rid of Body Odour and sweat!

Antiperspirant sprays work wonders if you are trying to stop the sweat itself!

They block the sweat glands and keeps you from sweating, attacking our problem from the root!

Now, there are a range of these sprays in the market, from dry sprays to gels to normal liquid deodorants.

Some of the good brands I came across were Nivea, Dove, Secret Clinical Strength Invisible Solid etc.

Handkerchief

A simple handkerchief would save your day!

Although antiperspirant sprays would do their work on stopping the sweat in your armpits, your face would still be sweating!

Using a simple cotton handkerchief would take care of that for you.

However, avoid overusing it every now and then, as your audience might sense that you are uncomfortable.

Just dab around the sweat area and don’t rub it, or you might harm your skin.

Trim or shaving hair

Groom Underarm Hair To Not Have  Smelly Armpits!

Hair follicles on the body actually hold on to the sweat, mixing with the bacteria and causing you to smell and feel uncomfortable.

Hence, get rid of that hair, especially the ones on your underarm and face, to not let sweat stay in place, and to avoid sweat stains as well.

You can either trim them short or shave them off completely.

For men, trimming your beard or simply going for a complete shaved look would be a good option.

Personally, I love to work out and dance, and I noticed that when I shave or trim my body hair, I sweat and smell less!

So, if you want to reduce that sweat and smell in your work out session, this tip works equally well!

Dark-colored clothing

Dark colored shirts are the best option to conceal sweat!

If you wear light-colored clothing, chances are that you would show sweat stains and this would put you in a bad light in front of your audience, as it will make you look shabby.

Hence, the best way to conceal sweat stains from showing is to wear dark-colored clothes.

Go for colors such as black, dark grey, navy blue, or any other dark color of your choice.

You can even go for patterned or printed clothing, and they too will help in concealing the sweat.

To know more about what colors to choose for your next presentation, check out our article on Guide: Colours to wear during a presentation

Avoid big-armed gestures

Avoid large hand gestures and your audience will not know!

Avoid big arms gesture such as the one seen as above.

This is the last possible solution to avoid showing those sweaty armpits to your audience.

Use small hand gesture that you could do without lifting your shoulders, such as just using your palms or hands.

To know more about such gestures, check out our article To walk or stand still: How should you present when on stage?

FAQs on sweating

We curated some of the most asked questions related to sweating and how to stop it.

Here are the top 3:

Why do I sweat when talking on the phone?

Phone call anxiety

Now, not many people face this, but there is a handful of us who do.

There could be various reasons for your sweat.

It could be that you had a long call and due to your phone’s heat, you end up sweating near your ears, or the weather is humid and hot, hence the sweating.

However, some of us might simply be scared to pick up the call!

Situations like picking an interview call, getting a call from someone you fear or call from the hospital, etc., can also make you stressed and end up sweating.

Personally, I used to hate picking up calls, even from my close friends, to the point that I lost touch with some of my really close friends from school.

However, I realized that there is a phenomenon called Telephone Phobia, which is an irrational fear of making or taking calls.

You might want to take the help of a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist to better cope with being comfortable having phone calls.

Why do I sweat during meetings?

Meetings can be stressful sometimes and you feel drained of energy after having one, especially if you are going for a one-on-one interview.

Like the situation with phone calls, various factors can make you sweat when in a meeting.

The physical temperature and the setup of the meeting matters.

If you have a well-ventilated or air-conditioned room, there would be fewer chances of sweating.

However, if the room doesn’t have a proper setup, such as fans or AC, plus the weather is hot and humid, chances are that you will sweat.

It might also be the case that you are anxious about how the meeting will go or what if you make a fool out of yourself, that can cause you to sweat.

In extreme cases, you might have Social Phobia or Social Anxiety, i.e., irrational anxiety when placed in a social setting.

In this case, if you feel really anxious, and your heartbeat shoots up when speaking or interacting with people, you should consider seeking help from a psychologist, for better work and life adjustment.

Why do I sweat during a presentation?

Like the above two questions, this question also leads us to many factors behind sweating.

The venue might be uncomfortable, or the weather is to be blamed.

If you are nervous, you might end up sweating more under the above conditions.

However, there might be some of us who particularly have speech anxiety, where you get really anxious and panic at the sight of standing and giving a professional presentation, or when you don’t know the audience.

Glossophobia, another form of Social Anxiety Disorder, can be very difficult to cope with, as the person dreads even the thought of giving a presentation.

You might want to visit a counselor or psychologist, to better cope and adjust to work-life, as many occupations require you to give presentations regularly.

To conclude

In this article we saw what was the whole reason behind the phenomenon of sweating.

We also saw why is sweating a problem when it comes to public speaking.

Lastly, we dived into various solutions to combat the problem of sweating on stage.

Hope this article helped you!

Check out our related articles:

How to prepare your voice for a speech: Step-by-step guide

The Best Guide to Audience Analysis

How to Present without Sounding like a Robot?

11 Engaging Ways To Interact With The Audience

Hrideep Barot is the founder and chief writer at Frantically Speaking, a portal to help people learn everything about public speaking. The purpose of franticallyspeaking.com is to showcase the lessons that he has learned (and still learning) from his numerous stage experiences and mentors over all these years.

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