Ease dry mouth – public speaking

When author Eleanor Catton was named the youngest winner – aged 28 – of the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for her epic novel The Luminaries, she was gobsmacked. 

How would you respond?

Although Catton recovered her composure to make a graceful speech, she said she was hit by a “white wall” to hear her name read out. She rose from her table at the black-tie dinner with “dry mouth and trembling knees” according to The Australian newspaper.

Some tips for when you accept YOUR award

Dry mouth is exacerbated by throat tension. To relieve it:

 Drop your jaw and rub the underside of your tongue against the inside of your teeth. This activates the lubricating saliva glands.

• Press the tip of your tongue on the hard palate near the teeth ridge.

 Subtle sucking movements promote saliva. 

 Imagine the taste of lemon juice or vinegar. 

 Simulate yawns  (subtle social yawns, rather than alienate listeners).

A dehydrated performer’s responses become sluggish if fluid is not maintained.

In a “normal” day we need at least eight glasses of water – but increase this for periods of stress. Yes, I know what you’re thinking… you don’t want to haunt the bathroom.

We’re talking HABITS here!  Drink plenty of water in those pressured weeks, days, the morning of a presentation. Ease back in the hours and minutes before, perhaps simply taking a sip before walking onto the platform.

(Excerpt from my book Speak Out – Don’t freak out now available as eBook.)

And the shakes? More on this next time.

Short vs. long?

While known and loved writers sell doorstopper size novels, the novice is advised to submit 90,000 words (or better, 80,000). Yet Catton won with a novel ten times that length. Chair of judges, Robert Macfarlane, said “Length never poses a problem if it’s a great novel.” Take heart, authors. Edit, polish, hone your skills and polish, polish.

Speaking short

My writing journey was encouraged to be chosen as one of five authors to pitch their manuscripts before a panel of publishers at Byron Bay Writers Festival. How to condense all that passion and enthusiasm for an absorbing story into FIVE minutes? It was a challenging learning curve, even for an experienced speaker and I’m very grateful for the opportunity. I’ll tell you more next time.