For more than 30 years, I was not able to enjoy a cup of coffee due to allergies. I was happy sipping many different kinds of tea and did not feel especially deprived, although the initial two weeks of caffeine-withdrawal headaches were not something I wanted to experience again.

Fast forward to last month, August 8. I was visiting the magnificent mountain-top destination of Monserrat in Bogota, Colombia, prior to conducting a five-day series of training sessions for two clients based there. The air was thin and cold after getting 
off the rail car that brought us up the mountain and it took a while to catch my breathe. Then, my guide, Gonzalo, invited me for a coffee.

Earlier in the year, I’d learned that I was no longer allergic to coffee, but I had been reluctant to try it. But here I was in Colombia, home of some of the worlds’ best coffee, so I decided to go ahead. That first little cup was pure heaven.  It was rich, hot and delicious. I felt energized for the day and I was reminded why so many people are addicted to coffee.

So the next day, having an afternoon coffee and scrumptious dessert with my client, Maria Clara, while touring an historic folkloric art district, I again savored the experience. That night, however, I kept waking up and could not sleep. And the next day, I was to be picked up at 7:30 a.m. to present a five-hour session at a nearby hotel, for a client who wanted the entire program in Spanish, something I had not done by myself before.

Despite my lack of sleep, thankfully, that initial leadership communication workshop for 12 Colombian executives went well. The coffee did help me get through four more days of extremely early-rising and long but rewarding days of providing intensive training in Bogota and in the charming, cobble-stoned Villa de Leyva, about three hours away. And I realized that I could not drink the magical beverage after 2 p.m.

Moral of the story: Caffeine can be your friend or foe as a speaker. Too much can put you on edge and keep you from performing your best. Remember, caffeine is in soft drinks, as well as coffee and tea. We’re each different, so I recommend you find your own limits – and then remember them!

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