Professional Communication Skills: The (Ugh!) Fall Cold

Posted by Bridget Beirne
September 18, 2013

Preserving your professional communication skills in the face of the Fall cold!

When your job deals with communicating (and let's face it, who's doesn't?) there is a seemingly harmless event that can derail your best laid plans faster than you can say "change of seasons"- the Fall cold.

As a member of Team Ovation and a professional actor, the Fall Cold is something that I'veprofessional communication skills 3 huddled from in fear for as long as I can remember. When you're suddenly struck mute in the face of meetings, presentations, or performances, you realize, once again, the power of that little bug.

Having had the phrase "the show must go on!" drummed into my head for as long as I can remember, it takes a lot to knock me off my pins. I can recall giving a performance while unbelievably ill. I somehow was able to make it through the on-stage action (a 2.5 hour Sondheim musical), hurl myself towards the wing, and drop, dizzy and nauseated, to the floor while I waited to re-enter. It was not pretty, and sure- probably not medically advisable. But somehow, I made it through.

So, when the Fall cold came knocking this year, I tried bravely to fight it. I denied its existence for a while. I chalked it up to a dry throat or perhaps exposure to too much dust. It WAS NOT going to happen- there was work to be done! Then, sadly, I could fight no more. The cold had won. Yes, of course, the work still got done- but geez, was it miserable.

The great thing about the "show must go on" mentality is that it requires learning a few hacks to keep you communicative when a cold strikes. And while this is completely unscientific advice, actors all over swear by these things:


1) Water, water everywhere: I remember in college many of us carrying around gallons of water to drink over the course of the day, knowing that the more we cleansed the system, the better the "instrument" would operate. OK, gallons of water is overkill. But the basic idea of flushing toxins out of your system is a good one. If you feel the Fall cold tickle coming on, up the water intake.


2) Herbal tea with honey and lemon: This is on the list for almost every singer I know. Especially if you need to present through an illness, the combination of warmth, viscous honey to coat the throat, and lemon to soothe is a great thing to drink before you go on. Stick to herbal tea- caffeine can dry you out, which will only make that scratchy throat worse.


3) Sweating out the coldies: It may seem counterintuitive, but when you're feeling under the weather a walk or a workout can help rid your body of the cold bug. Obviously, if you are beyond sick, it's not good for you or your fellow gym mates to be exposed to your germs (ew!). But an extra work out in the early stage is a great way to fight the impending doom. Workout bonus? It's a great way to warm up your body and fight nerves before a presentation.


4) Hot Stuff!: Proceed with caution on this last one, but I know a lot of my fellow actors who believe very strongly in the health benefits of spicy food, especially when they aren't feeling well. And anyone who's had a nose full of wasabi knows the power of the spice! While you definitely want to avoid scalding the rest of your system, a bit of cayenne or the like in a meal can sometimes help. Just be careful of ingesting the spice too close to show time.


Of course, remember- we're communicators and actors, but not doctors. Consulting your doctor is always a good thing.



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