8 Ways to Not Sweat the Small Stuff When Public Speaking
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The idea of public speaking in front of a group is not easy for everyone. It makes some people very nervous or anxious. When people get nervous and anxious, they tend to sweat. When I am nervous and anxious, I sweat. If I'm speaking to people and I'm thinking about how sweaty I am, I get distracted, which causes more anxiety.
That’s a lot of sweating, but I’ve learned a few tricks to get around it. Here are my simple solutions to sweat less when you speak.
1. Bring an extra undershirt and t-shirt.
When I'm running around as the GingerMC during events like the OC Tech Happy Hour, I find that putting on a fresh shirt moments before I get on stage reduces my anxiety about sweating. Be prepared with an extra couple of shirts -- it will lower your stress before you get on stage.
2. Wear shirts with colors that do not show sweat stains.
Learning the hard way, light shirts (specifically light blue, tan, or similarly light colors) accentuate sweat spots because the sweat creates a contrast to the shirt's color. What I find is that darker shirts, like dark blue, or shirts with a dark pattern work better and don't show sweat spots under your armpits nearly as much.
3. Wear a sports coat.
Often times, I am in situations where the room that I'm speaking in is hot. To add insult to injury, sometimes it’s also a hot day out. My advice: always bring a sports coat. And for ladies, there are equivalents of sports coats that I'm sure you have in your closet. Look for items that are professional, and that you can wear with an outfit you would speak in. If it's a hot day, there's a good chance that you have already sweat through your shirt before you get on stage. If you have a sports coat, you can wear it while public speaking to hide the sweat stains that have appeared.
Now you may be thinking to yourself, this doesn't make sense. If it’s a hot day and you wear a sports coat, won’t it will make you sweat more? You’re right, but when you're onstage, you don't want your audience to get distracted by your sweat patches. The coat or sports coat will help cover up any and all sweat patches that form while you're speaking.
4. Avoid big arm gestures.
Sometimes there's nothing you can do about the fact that you are sweating through your nice dress shirt up on stage in front of hundreds of people (or a small group). I have been there, done that. One trick I like to use when I know that I’ve been busted by the evil sweat monster is to keep my hand movements in a tighter radius, and have my arms (from my shoulder to my elbow) closer to my body. Essentially, keeping my arms down so that the audience can't see that I'm sweating. Keeping your arms close can look natural. Use body movements, just avoid any large gestures when public speaking, like your hands above your head or large sweeping motions that may reveal your sweaty state.
5. Bring a gym towel.
I've gone to so many speaking events that I have actually developed a “Speaker’s Travel Bag”. It has certain items that I've learned I might need in various situations. One of the items I have in this bag is a clean gym towel. It comes in handy for wiping sweat off your face, and even under your shirt, before you go on stage. It is low profile enough to wear that it won't draw attention, but large enough to be way more effective than paper towels from the bathroom. My simple move is to fold the towel twice, slide it up under my shirt, and clamp down on it under each of my arms.
6. Invest in expensive undershirts.
I will tell you from experience that when it comes to undershirts, you get what you pay for. If you buy the large pack of super inexpensive undershirts, that's fine. Just don't wear one of those shirts when it's your time to get up on stage. Do some research and invest in high quality (and yes, expensive) undershirts that actually have technology to help absorb sweat, resulting in less attacks by the sweaty armpit monster. One of my favorite (invisible) undershirts are from CollectedThreads.
Don't believe me, you just have to trust me. You don't have to wear one of these expensive undershirts everyday, you just need one or two for the days that you are speaking. The shirts might work so well, you continue to invest so that you get a chance to wear an awesome, technologically advanced, sweat-free undershirt all the time.
7. Wear anti-perspirant & deodorant.
I'm going to assume that you wear deodorant... but I cannot assume that you are wearing the right type of deodorant to be a public speaker. Not all deodorants are equal! Look at the deodorant that you wear on a regular basis and see if it just says “Deodorant” or if it says “Anti-perspirant & Deodorant.” Anti-perspirant does exactly what it’s named after -- it has chemicals that somehow make you sweat less. Deodorant on its own is just a scented stick that makes you smell better. Many different brands have a variety of both, so find a brand you like and wear the appropriate type -- deodorant or antiperspirant -- for your situation. Whenever I speak, I make sure to wear anti-perspirant & deodorant.
8. Remain calm while public speaking.
Sweat is usually a result of stress and anxiety. There are a variety of public speaking situations that can cause stress. Before giving my first TEDx talk, I was nervous. But reminded myself to stay calm, and it works wonders. One of the simplest ways to sweat less on stage is to not be so stressed out. This is easier said than done of course, no matter how experienced of a speaker you are -- everyone gets nervous. However, the more times you speak, the more confident you become, and the more confident you become, the less stressed you are.
Don't let the evil sweat monster ruin your speech! Don't be scared of public speaking. Follow the steps above to minimize the amount you sweat. Relax and enjoy the process of speaking -- even the moments before you get on stage when your mind is racing. Be confident in your preparation, do the pre-stage sway, and know that you can always leverage improvisation. Get up on the stage or stand up with confidence in the board room and crush it.
If you have other tips, stories, or thoughts, I would love to hear as comments!
Ryan Foland, a public speaking expert and the Managing Partner at InfluenceTree. At InfluenceTree, Ryan and his team teach you how to build your (personal or business) brand, get featured in publications and growth hack your social media following.
Ryan blogs at RyanFoland.com
Connect with him on LinkedIn or send him a message.