Internetland is abuzz with criticism of Republican up and comer Marco Rubio, for inexpertly quaffing some water during his 2013 state of the union response. In the video you can see Rubio’s mouth getting drier and drier, turning to the glue like state many people, myself included, have felt when speaking publicly. This in itself does not impede public communication – it’s how you deal with it.
It’s perfectly normal for your mouth to go dry when speaking in front of groups, and otherwise when nervous. It’s a symptom of the fight or flight response, or the sympathetic nervous system. When you are in a dangerous – or seemingly dangerous – situation, your body re-routes metabolic energy from your digestive tract, which your salivary glands are part of, to your brain and muscles so that you are more alert and ready, but your mouth is unhelpfully less lucid. You just need to drink some water.
And don’t be afraid to drink water – there’s nothing worse than chomping on the inside of your mouth because it has the moisture levels of the Mojave. Dry mouth doesn’t just stop fluidity – it can create noticeable discomfort and affect the voice negatively, even cutting it off.
What Rubio should have had was water at hand in a glass, not the world’s smallest plastic bottle, a mistake by his press handlers rather than by him. That way, he wouldn’t have had to virtually leave the screen, and wouldn’t have had to rush. In fact, it would have been a lot better if he’d have taken his time and left a dramatic pause, rather than do an impression of a marathon runner – I was half expecting him to throw that water over himself and run a sweatband over his forehead.
Anyway, Rubio’s performance was pretty good overall, and the water intake was a very minor blip – no Freudian slip, no freezing up, no insincerity beaming through. I think he is an excellent public speaker with the right interpersonal qualities for higher office.
N.B. He needs to work on his smile. I haven’t seen such an insincere smile in ages than the one he finished on. Smiling matters so much when you are a public figure as you are expected to be having a good time even when you aren’t and you need it to look convincing.
Drink at 12 mins.
Inauthentic smile at 16 mins.