They say that making a speech is one of the most frightening things that you can do, and I agree. There was a time when just the thought of speaking in front of an audience made me break out in a sweat and butterflies would dance around inside my stomach. That’s not very good for someone who has spent the last 15 years speaking in front of people. I was always fearful of standing in front of others and became very aware of how I would panic as I was talking and would often forget what I was about to say.
So how did I overcome this fear that most of us have? (To be honest, you never actually overcome the fear, it’s just become a little easier.) Practice, practice, practice. Just as psychologists use immersion therapy to help their clients overcome fears and medical specialists use desensitisation to get their patients accustomed to something they have an adverse reaction to, you can use the same technique. The more you do, the easier it becomes.
When you have a speech to make, write it out in at least 14 size font and in 1.5 paragraph spacing. This makes it easy to read when you are under pressure. Next start to memorise the important points of the speech so that when you lose your place, and you will, you can find it much easier. Plus you will have the opportunity to look at the audience more often if you know what you are about to say. Next, use a highlighter pen to make the important words stand out more. Again this is helpful to find your place if you become flustered.
If there is a lectern available, stand firmly behind it with your hands gripping either side. This will stop you from moving about and the audience won't see your hands shaking. Don’t grip it too tight as you don’t want the audience to see white knuckles. When it comes time to turn the page of your speech, don't hide it, make it obvious and take your time in doing so. Periodically, look up just above the heads of your audience as you are talking. The more that you do this the more relaxed you will become.
The way in which we hear or own voice is sometimes off-putting. We tend to hear every little squeak or waver. Don't worry about this, ignore it as others won't hear it. If you are worried about how you sound then record your voice and play it back and correct whatever it is that you want to. Another way is to download a software programme that allows you to hear the sound of your own voice while you are talking. Standing in front of a mirror as you practice your speech is another good way to practice.
I wish that I had done some of these things early on in my speech-making days, I didn't. If I had perhaps it would have saved me a lot of worry.