Public speaking is generally listed as one of people’s biggest fears. For many it creates images of the heart beating faster, times when your hands were shaking, palms were sweating and you were uncontrollably nervous. It was something I certainly had to face at the start. Public speaking was my biggest fear and every time I took the stage, regardless of if I was speaking to 4 people or 400, I was a visibly sweaty mess.
I thought it was a bad thing when I encountered all these items before speaking to an audience but the more I looked into the psychology and science behind it and the more I spoke to other comedians, performers, and presenters, the more I began to realize that this was perfectly normal.
This is the body’s way of telling me that it is ready. The thought of negative consequences triggers glands to secrete the hormone ACTH. This hormone results in the release of adrenaline into your blood and this causes these things. This is essentially fight or flight, also called acute stress response, first described by Walter Cannon in the 1920s as a theory to animal’s reaction to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system. One of the side effects is sweating more. It gets worse when you feel you are doing badly. Known in theatre and performance as “flop sweat” it refers to the sudden heavy perspiration brought on my anxiety. If you think its going badly you will sweat more. It doesn’t help that many business conferences are run in adapted spaces with air conditioning systems not build to accommodate the sudden additional personnel load.
Sometimes you will be in a very hot room, sometimes you will be nervous and sometimes you will feel like it’s going badly even when it’s not. Be prepared for this and don’t wear clothes that show visible sweat patches!
Make sure your presentation wardrobe is made up of natural fabrics like 100 per cent cotton, linen, lightweight merino wool, jersey, chambray, rayon and silk. Moisture wick fabric is another great option. As you can see from the above images, I wear the same style of shirt nearly every time I go on stage. If I’m sweating as an audience member you won’t be able to tell. Its one less thing for me to worry about as a presenter and one less thing to distract you as audience member. It worked well for me and Steve Jobs. Try it and see if it works for you.