Feeling nervous before giving a prepared speech is natural and can be beneficial.
To deliver a great performance you’ll need to get those butterflies under control. Here are some tips to help:
1. Know your material
Pick a topic you are interested in. Research the topic so that you know more about it than you can or want to include in your prepared speech. Use humour, personal stories and conversational language to tell your story (deliver your speech). This approach will help you to remember your speech.
Practice. Practice. Practice!
There really is no substitute for rehearsing out loud with all equipment you plan on using. I personally use and recommend the use of a video camera to record myself and review my performance (in private of course!).
Amend your speech and performance as needed. It’s amazing how you’ll be able to control those, er, erm, filler words;
Practice pausing at relevant points in your speech and PLEASE remember to breathe. When practicing use a timer and allow time for the unexpected. Speeches are usually allowed a minimum, mid and maximum time, like 5 to 7 minutes. For a 5 to 7 minute speech I aim for just over 6 minutes. The lights usually at the back of the room (Green Amber & Red on 5, 6 & 7 minutes really help)
3. Know your audience
Greet some of the audience members as they arrive. It’s easier to speak to a group of friends than to strangers.
4. Know the room
Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone if there is one and any visual aids like flip charts, props and computer presentations.
Begin by addressing the audience. It buys you time and calms your nerves. Pause, smile and count to three before saying anything. (“One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand. Pause. Begin.) Transform nervous energy into enthusiasm.
6. Visualise yourself giving your speech
Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and confident. Visualise the audience clapping – it will boost your confidence.
7. People want you to succeed
Audiences want you to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They’re rooting for you.
8. Don’t apologise
for any nervousness or problem – the audience probably never noticed it.
9. Concentrate on the message
not the medium. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and concentrate on your message and your audience.
10. Gain experience
Mainly, your speech should represent you, as an authority and as a person. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking. A Toastmasters club can provide the experience you need in a safe and friendly environment.