I had to give a speech the other day. Not a presentation, or a training session. A full speech. Ten minutes behind a lectern with an audience of upturned faces in front of me. Like most of the rest of humanity, I get nervous in situations like that. Unlike most of the rest of humanity, however, I had a couple of coping strategies up my sleeve.
In fact, if you look at one of the photos of my speech (it’s used as a banner here: https://www.speechwritingplus.com/contact/, or in smaller format below) you’ll be able to see right up that sleeve both literally and metaphorically. Literally, because it’s bang in front of the camera. And metaphorically, because you can evidence of a few of my coping strategies is on display – if you know where to look.
1. Scout the venue. Even if you’re familiar with the room that you’ll speak in, as I was, you might not be familiar with it as a speaker. So: what sort of lectern is there, and does it have enough space to rest your script, a drink of water, your props and anything else you might need? Will the audience be standing up or sitting down, and will you have to adjust the length of your speech accordingly? And what’s the mic like? In the photo you can see that my mic’s in a good position – I adjusted it beforehand. A small thing, but it all matters.
2. Hold on. If you’re nervous, and you’re speaking from behind a relatively substantial, relatively high lectern, then try holding on to the lectern. This can achieve two things. First, it reinforces your posture and makes you feel sturdier. And second, it can stop you gesticulating too much. Both have the effect of improving your standing in the eyes of the audience.
3. The big one: practice. I hadn’t learnt my speech off by heart, but I’d read it through often enough that the basic thread was very familiar. Because I knew what was coming, I was able to look around the room more freely, to make eye contact with specific people and to vary the pace of the speech so that the key bits were really hammered home.
There are more of these little hints. Plenty more. They vary depending on whether you’re speaking in a shop or a stadium, based in a boardroom or a bandstand, or standing on a stage or a soapbox. I can help explain them to you as part of my speech training courses for groups or individuals. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to find out more.