How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

H20 2.0: Speech lessons from Marco Rubio

February 14, 2013: 2:41 PM ET
Sen. Marco Rubio Tuesday night

Sen. Marco Rubio Tuesday night

You can learn from yesterday's laugh line--to make sure you aren't tomorrow's!

Guest Post by Mary Civiello

By now, most of us have seen Senator Marco Rubio's awkward snatch of Poland Spring during his State of the Union response.

And if you have spoken in front of an audience, you can empathize.

A combination of nerves and bright lights causes you to sweat, dehydrate, and need H2O NOW.

The longer you wait, the worse it gets.

And the more panic you feel, compromising your delivery.

On Tuesday night, I Tweeted that you could see it coming with the U.S. Senator from Florida. ("Rubio's mouth was so obviously getting dry...")

As for that old saying, "Never let 'em see you sweat," well, the GOP did "let 'em" with their favorite son.

It didn't need to be that way. Three simple lessons to speak to a crowd, without sweating:

1. Make sure you've got the AC on high and practice with the klieg lights.

2. Place the water within reach. Rubio's H2O was too low and far away, forcing his desperate reach on camera. I advise clients to plant a bottle on a convenient table or on the podium. No need to hide it.

3. Time it right. I work with a top executive and experienced speaker who struggles with his need for frequent water breaks. We actually plan his water breaks at the end of major points in his talks--before or after he delivers a great line. In this way, his water breaks force him to pause and ADD impact.

Mary Civiello is an executive communications coach. She works with leaders at companies and not-for-profit organizations including Morgan Stanley (MS), Merck (MRK), American Express (AXP), AIG (AIG), CARE and the United Nations.

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About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

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