Giving a speech requires preparation, from research and planning to writing and rehearsing, but failing to prepare mentally can mean the difference between a good speech and a great speech.
Controlling your nerves requires a little practice and patience, but once perfected it can be used for all sorts of situations. Here are some great tips to get you started.
Accept your nervousness and feel okay about it. If you make a conscious effort to identify that you feel worried, that you feel queasy, that you are sweating and understand that your nerves are doing this, you are able to then accept that feeling nervous is natural and absolutely okay.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect. We often compare ourselves to others and put pressure on ourselves to be perfect but you are far better off being yourself. Even the most established of speakers make the odd mistake and that’s what makes us all human.
Know your subject matter. It is evident very quickly if you are talking about a subject that you know little about. The speech come across as lacklustre and wooden with lack of passion and conviction, your audience won’t engage and your speech will soon be forgotten. The more you know about your subject the more confident you will be.
Engage your audience. Involve your audience so they feel a part of your speech. Not only will it raise the energy level of the room, your speech will be far more memorable.
Use breathing techniques. Controlling your breathing will bring your heart rate down and help you to focus. Sit or stand straight and slowly take in a deep breath from your diaphragm to expand your tummy as full as you can. Hold for a few seconds exhale slowly as far as you can, hold for a couple of seconds and repeat. You will instantly feel calmer and in control.
Practice mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness is the art of being in the moment, not letting any outside influences in, any worry or problems, questions or noises. It is clearing your mind enough to blank out everything and listen to your own heartbeat and breathing and nothing else. Mindfulness and meditation take practice and patience; there are plenty of guides, YouTube sessions and books out there to help you learn.
Visualisation. Visualise the success of your speech. Imagine getting to the end knowing that you were concise, clear, engaging and interesting. So much so, that your audience applauds loudly and you know that all your preparation and practice was all worth it and more importantly, you enjoyed delivering your speech.
Practice out loud. When preparing to deliver a speech you should always rehearse it out loud and in front of a friend or family member. That way, not only are you practicing, you can get open and honest feedback on your delivery and content.
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine or alcohol. The last thing your body needs is extra stimulants when your adrenaline is taking over. You may think a drink beforehand will calm your nerves but in actual fact it has the opposite effect and will only add to your anxiety. Only drink water, your body and mind work so much better when hydrated.
Make eye contact with your audience. It can be very tempting to read from que cards or your PowerPoint presentation without really looking at your audience, but will show lack of willing to engage with your audience and will turn them off what you are trying to say. Try to hold eye contact across the room by alternating to your left, right and centre audience.
By following these techniques, you will soon be on the way to delivering great speeches and actually enjoy giving them!