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January 14, 2010 1:45 PM   Subscribe

Public speaking and bathrooms. How do you make it work?

Why do we never see public figures excusing themselves to go the bathroom? Let's say you're at the presidential inauguration or maybe you're on a speaking panel and you've got to be in the public eye for the next 5 hours; excusing yourself to run to a faraway bathroom is not an option. How do public figures prepare for that? Or more specifically, how should I prepare for an event like that? Obviously eating 3 chili dogs and 4 cups of coffee beforehand is a bad idea but are there any other tips or hints that say presenters and public speakers know that aren't common knowledge to the rest of us?
posted by snorlaxx to Human Relations (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, Bush took a bathroom break once.

Whenever I speak in public I get an adrenaline rush that keeps me from even thinking about peeing. I'd imagine other people do, too.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:50 PM on January 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Stadium Buddy
but ,personally I watch what I drink closely, and ensure I go before I go on.
posted by digividal at 1:51 PM on January 14, 2010


It probably happens more than you think.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:54 PM on January 14, 2010


The audience has to pee too! So usually if you're at something interminable, with few exceptions, there's a break somewhere in there. When I do public speaking stuff I always pee right before I go on stage, like it's literally the last thing I do, try to minimize drinking a lot of caffeine beforehand, and try to minimize drinking water when I speak. That's about it. I think in most "normal" circumstances people assume there will be a bathroom/food/smoke break every few hours.

Also for some people having to pee can be an "omg trapped!!" anxiety reaction. So minimizing drinking beforehand and making sure you go to the bathroom beforehand can sort of help you reason with your irrational mind: I do not really have to pee, I just think I have to because I am nervous.
posted by jessamyn at 2:00 PM on January 14, 2010


If you think about it there are probably a lot of jobs where you can't go pee for hours and hours at a time, Surgeons and OR staff come to mind. 5-6 hours isn't unreasonable.
posted by ghharr at 2:03 PM on January 14, 2010


It's pretty rare for any event to involve being in the public eye for a span as long as 5 hours. There are usually intermissions in a program that long, or people are brought up to the stage for only portions of the program, etc.

On the other hand, I've been known to fly for upwards of 8-10 hours without using the bathroom (plane bathrooms = scary!), and I'd say a couple of things:

-- Don't drink anything that day, or at least a few hours beforehand.
-- Pee before you leave. Even if you don't have to.
-- If possible, just sit down or stand up for the most part, switching between the two makes me need to pee more.
-- Limit fluid intake during the event.

Having an iron bladder helps, but I'm not sure what (besides kegels) you can do for that.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:03 PM on January 14, 2010


Know where the restrooms are, whether there are lines, and if there's an alternative restroom if the first is full. Some events, depending on venue, may have a private restroom for speakers and guests of honor.

The lesson isn't that public figures never use the restroom; it is that they know how to discreetly and politely excuse themselves and return in a reasonable window should they go.
posted by mikeh at 2:17 PM on January 14, 2010


There are private washrooms backstage in almost all venues, even movie theatres (for talent attending premieres).
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:31 PM on January 14, 2010


Chances are if you're a public figure and do a lot of appearances, you know what you should or shouldn't eat or drink and always use the facilities before an event. It just becomes part of your routine.
posted by Scientifik at 2:39 PM on January 14, 2010


Why do we never see public figures excusing themselves to go the bathroom?

I have seen it many times. You don't see it on TV because they don't televise that part. I have never seen an event that went on for hours with no opportunity for speakers to use the bathroom, and I've been to a lot of high-profile events.
posted by The World Famous at 2:55 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


A line cook I knew shat himself rather than leave his station at a fine dining restaurant during dinner service. I feel like I've maybe had to use the bathroom during service 4 times out of the two years I was a cook, so there's probably a psychological thing going on, but then in a kitchen you sweat out everything you drink, so who knows?
posted by Jon_Evil at 3:07 PM on January 14, 2010


A former workplace of mine was visited by the Queen. She was there for a few hours to do some ribbon cutting and smile at children and the usual; she had several other engagements elsewhere that day. The Palace requested a toilet she could use, because they knew she'd need to go during the time she was with us. We replaced a complete bathroom suite in one of our en-suite bedrooms for her (even the shower). I don't know if the Palace requested that, our bathrooms were a bit tatty. Security checked it out beforehand. Before she left, she was discretely shown to the bathroom to do the Royal Piddle.

It was always a bonus if you were staying in that room, brand new bathroom, inaugurated by HRH.
posted by Helga-woo at 3:59 PM on January 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have to pee a lot more than most people in general, but if I am in front of people I generally do not. Amazing!

Also: A line cook I knew shat himself rather than leave his station at a fine dining restaurant during dinner service.

the FUCK???

posted by nosila at 3:59 PM on January 14, 2010


Data point: It's weird but I always have to pee when I experience anticipatory anxiety or stage fright, but only right before the event. Right before speaking in public, I always have sudden and powerful urge to pee. As soon as I'm actually in front of people or on stage it goes away, even if I haven't relieved myself.
posted by dchrssyr at 7:50 PM on January 14, 2010


I have seen it many times. You don't see it on TV because they don't televise that part. I have never seen an event that went on for hours with no opportunity for speakers to use the bathroom, and I've been to a lot of high-profile events.

I often coordinate events for dignitaries/celebs/pols as part of my job. They certainly do get bathroom breaks. Event staff are pretty solicitous about planning this in for them as part of an overall hospitality plan that also includes having bottled water around, having a contact person to be a runner for them if need be, arranging for their meals, car pickup, and so on. Anytime an event is going to run over 3 hours, there will definitely be a significant break planned in. Everyone's human. I'm not sure what kinds of events you are specifically referring to, but in very formal ceremonies that run more than a short time, there might even be 'seat takers' that fill in the seats of dignitaries if they have an emergency.

But also reflect that planning to be in the public eye is part of these people's job. That means they are used to this, and few things take them by surprise. Most folks who are going to appear in front of a crowd for a significant length of time will make a point of visiting the restroom right before they get started, not only to pee but to check their clothing, brush their hair, get a quick drink of water, etc. So they'll usually take care of this right before a long appointment. They might also intentionally refuse that 2nd cup of coffee or bottle of water - just as you would before getting on a long plane flight.

They also just learn the hard way to...hold it. Just as teachers do; when I was teaching, I could go from 8 AM to noon with no bathroom breaks - something I could never do today, when I drink water constantly and have no time constraints. We all adjust our behavior in order to do the job we need to do.
posted by Miko at 7:55 PM on January 14, 2010


Practice not going for lengths of time. My old job helped.
posted by Taurid at 10:03 PM on January 14, 2010


In high school I almost never used the restroom becuase they were gross. I easily went 6-7 hours every day without peeing, but it was always the first thing i did when I got home, even before taking my coat off.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:27 AM on January 15, 2010


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