“Did you get a good night’s sleep the night prior?” This is the first question I ask students and clients when they tell me they bombed their most recent presentation. The response I most often get is “absolutely not!” If recent research is correct, this lack of sleep could be a big contributor to these speakers not doing well. Sleep helps presenters in three principal ways:
Research from Binghamton University found that people who sleep for short durations or have interrupted sleep tend to be more anxious and have their anxiety amplified. With today’s busy life styles and frequent time zone travel, it can be challenging to get sustained, high quality sleep, but this research suggests that it is well worth it.
Helps with memory
Sleep researchers have now concluded that one of the most important aspects of sleep is to consolidate memories. You are much more likely to recall information if you are well rested from a good night’s sleep than if you stay up all night trying to memorize your points. The night before you speak, review your outline and practice your presentation once or twice, then put it away and get some “shut eye.” Rely on your brain’s natural processes to help your message stick.
Getting a good night sleep allows you to better cope with any speaking anxiety symptoms or unexpected activities. Being rested gives you more capacity to engage in contingency thinking, which is the spontaneous thought processes required to adjust “on the fly” to challenges that confront you. Rather than stay up all night and worry about what might go wrong, you should sleep and awake knowing you will have the mental fortitude to handle what confronts you.
Good sleep hygiene provides the best way to benefit from the power of sleep prior to presenting. Behaviors such as those below will help you feel more relaxed, remember more, and be able to handle what comes your way.
- – Go to bed around the same time every night and wake up at the same time as well.
- – Avoid bright lights and screens 30-45 minutes before going to bed.
- – Stop drinking caffeinated and alcoholic beverages too close to bedtime.
- – Enjoy some quiet time by yourself or with a loved one before lying down to sleep (e.g., do yoga, read a book, meditation, etc.).
When it comes to presenting well, rather than pull an all-nighter, get some well-deserved sleep. Your audience will thank you!