Before Your Next Speech: Get Enough Sleep

Mar 23, 2018 1:00:00 PM

Sarah Cummings, Guest Blogger


Good public speaking requires you to be in tip-top shape, both mentally and physically. If you’re under the weather in any way, the audience will be able to tell.

Obviously preparation is key, and knowing what you’re going to say inside out is an absolute must. As with all live presentations, if you don’t look good nobody is going to take what you say seriously, even if the content is mindblowing.

There is one more special ingredient that will ensure your next big speech is crowd pleaser: that’s getting a good night’s sleep in the run up to the big day.

Now, I know nerves often conspire to make sleep before a big speech even more difficult to get than usual, but I am here to tell you to do everything in your power to get sufficient rest. The quality of your speech really does depend upon it.

Don’t believe me? Well read on below and I will explain to you exactly why a great sleep will do wonders for your delivery and why poor sleep could be a disaster.


Sleep improves your memory


Anybody who is involved in frequent public speaking will have had one, if not many, of those stomach-turning moments when you’ve forgotten a crucial detail, date or even name at a critical point. Not only is it embarrassing but more often than not it will throw you off your stride and impact the rest of your delivery.

Memory is a very funny thing and while neuroscience still doesn’t understand all the mechanisms at play, we do now know more than ever about the processes that govern it. From what we do know, we can now predict that the reason you forgot half of your last speech wasn’t the early onset of Alzheimer's but probably just due to a poor night’s sleep.

Sleep affects memory in three ways. For simplicity, these are broken down into acquisition, consolidation and recall.

Acquisition is the making of new memories. Consolidation is the process by which short term memories are turned into lasting memories. And recall is the brain’s ability to dive back into the past and bring forth a relevant piece of information. All three of these processes are impacted by sleep and all three are obviously very important when delivering a speech.

A tired brain is less successful at recording information accurately. It will also struggle to identify what is important and therefore struggle to select what should saved for later. And finally, a weary mind is like an old computer model, it works but it does so very sluggishly.

When you are on that podium, you don’t want to be that old computer do you? No, well then get some rest! And while you are at it, make sure you a slumbering in healthy position.


Sleep improves your sense of humor


We all know the best speeches are those that deliver relevant content but do so in a lighthearted fashion. Even if the subject of a speech is incredibly dry, if the individual talking about it can put their own X factor into the delivery, then there’s absolutely no reason why it can’t still be a memorable.

To do so successfully however requires knowing your subject inside out and having a sense of humour about it. It’s been discovered that an individual's sense of humour is not a static characteristic. Things we find funny today we might not the next. Sleep, or lack thereof, contributes strongly to this fluctuation.

Humour relies on high level cognition and a lack of sleep inhibits this. A lack of rest slows how quickly our synapses fire and how promptly neurological connections are made. In particular, a lack of sleep impacts our ability to both appreciate and, importantly, deliver verbal humor, which could have a huge impact when standing on stage in front of that audience.

Nothing can lose a crowd quicker than an ill-placed attempt at humor that fell flat. Crickets, anyone?


Sleep makes you look good


Now this last point should come as no surprise to you whatsoever: it’s called “getting our beauty sleep” after all.

We all know that a bad night’s sleep can bring with it the dreaded bags under our eyes. Chronic poor sleep will also bring red and swollen eyelids, pale skin, more wrinkles and a drooping mouth.

A team of researchers in Sweden studied the effect of poor sleep on levels on attraction and they found that, unsurprisingly, sleep-deprived individuals were judged to be not only less beautiful but also less healthy.

Now you might be thinking what has being attractive got to do with giving a good speech? Well that’s simple! If we deem somebody to be attractive we pay them more attention. If the man or woman at the front of the room looks good, then we, the audience, are more likely to tune into whatever they are saying.


So there you have it – three ways in which getting enough sleep can have a huge impact on the success of your next speech. My advice? Skip the coffee and get yourself tucked up in bed nice and early.


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