Preparing for a Speech
It is common sense that having a good night’s sleep is the basis for feeling fresh and energetic for the day of your speech. Don’t drink the night before (not even a cheeky one to settle the nerves!). At worst you will feel horribly hung-over, at best, sluggish and slow. Make sure your outfit is clean, ironed and hanging up the night before. Rushing around first thing, trying to make snap decisions about what to wear will only make you nervous. I wouldn’t recommend wearing new shoes as they are never that comfy to begin with. You need to be focusing on your speech not on your aching feet!
Have a decent breakfast, preferably something healthy like wholemeal toast and a banana. This fuel will not only keep your blood sugar stable, it will help your mind remain clear and sharp. If your speech is after lunch, make your lunchtime food choices with these thoughts in mind. Drink plenty of water. Being properly hydrated is crucial.
Decide how many times you want to go over your speech and stick to it. Work should have been done by now so trust yourself. Don’t go over and over your speech, making last minute changes or picking out imperfections. However, go over the beginning part of the speech as this is when you will feel the most nervous. Once your speech gets going it will almost unfold by itself. Trust that.
Arrive in plenty of time. Make sure you have back up if using PowerPoint or other presentation tools which have the potential to fail. If you can see the venue beforehand – great. If you can rehearse in the space beforehand, even better. Take advantage. If you are dealing with microphones, don’t be afraid to ask the sound person for help.
If you have a chance to meet your audience beforehand, do so. Shake hands, introduce yourself and smile. Having made that connection will give you a feeling of rapport with your audience. DON’T tell anyone you are nervous or that you hate giving speeches. Stand tall and believe in yourself. If you do, your audience will believe in you. Remember they are only human beings!
If you are sitting on stage, following another speaker, remember you are on view the entire time. Look interested, sit up straight and smile at times. Also breathe! Deep breaths will help you feel calmer and help you become more grounded. I have heard people advise to take a deep breath in and then begin. Don’t, this actually adds to your anxiety. Try this: Breathe out, then speak.
Don’t aim to be perfect. Simply aim to get your message across to your audience. Remember you need to be heard. Speak slowly, clearly and loudly enough. Smile and look around the room, engage your audience with plenty of eye contact.
There will always be a degree of nerves and adrenalin but don’t fear them, they are your friend. They will keep you aware, alert and determined. There’s that age old tip to imagine the audience without any clothes on. To be honest I’ve never tried it myself, but you never know!
Remember – be yourself. I know I seem to say this a lot but it is so true. People have come to listen to YOU. You never know you might even enjoy it!