- First and foremost, you need to understand that nervousness is normal. Irrespective of how many times you have done it in the past, it always gets a little chilly when you realize you have to speak to a crowd. Even pro speakers get a bit of cold feet before a public address. So keep in mind that it happens to everyone. It is normal so don’t freak out about it. Feeling a bit nervous is normal and it happens to everyone so embrace it instead of fighting it and putting yourself on the edge for days or weeks before the speech.
- Know your audience. To deliver an amazing, outstanding speech you need to know and understand your possible audience. Prior to your public speech, you need to equip yourself with knowledge of who your audience will be. It is hard, close to impossible to impress your audience if you do not know who they are as you prepare your speech. You must know the sex orientation of your audience, the age groups you will be addressing, religious affiliations, to mention but a few. Knowing the basics about your audience helps you to prepare the content of your upcoming speech knowing that you have the right content that will interest them and get you the much needed attention.
- Be organized. For a successful speech, you must be able to capture your audience with in the first thirty seconds. Find and use a catching line to start your speech. Something that your audience can relate to. Your catching line does not necessarily have to be related to the topic of your speech. It can be a joke. Whatever it is just be sure to grab the atmosphere immediately at the start of your speech. This will make them pay interest in you if not in what you have to say.
- Let your personality come through. To make an impression and leave a mark on your audience, you have got to share your persona with your audience. Give your audience insight on your personal life, who you really are. You always have to try and bond with your audience. For instance, if it is a sad painful occasion, tell them a story that speaks to them and shows that you feel their pain. Talk a bit about your family, friends, job, day to day life. Give them something of your life that will make them relate to you on a personal level. However, do not lose yourself into your personal life that you absolutely divert from the topic at hand. Only share your persona where you can relate to the speech gist.
- Keep a keen eye on your audience for feedback and adapt to it. It is your place to take charge of the atmosphere. Even if you take control at the beginning of the speech, you are going to need to keep it. You can only do that if you keep watching your audience. Engage your audience for feedback if the occasion allows for it. Respond to the feedback you get from them in form of attention, slumber, sneers etc. Use that feedback to your advantage. Get a better, more attentive audience by manipulating the feedback from your audience
- Use your stage. It belongs to you, so conquer it. Irrespective of how nervous you could be, walk the entire stage. Not like it is a pattern of sorts, but in a natural, flexible way. It is your show, so own it up. Take charge. Take control. You lose power, you cease to make sense when you stay in one place. A part of your audience may feel neglected and hence stop paying attention to you whatsoever. Walking the entire length of the stage dictates control and in a way it helps you loosen up and replaces any of your remaining tension with absolute ease.
- Keep eye contact with your audience. Do not shy away. Do not keep your eyes locked onto your note pad. There is no way, anyone is going to take you any serious if you are not convincing, and there is absolutely no way you can convince them if you cannot look them in the eye. It is boring to listen to a speech with a speaker that spends seventy five percent of their time staring at their note pad. Your note pad should be entirely for reference. Remember you are not there to read to them but to talk to them. Otherwise you probably should have mailed the entire speech to them. Look at them, interact with them, assure them of your presence.
- Use humor and effective language. This should be quite easy if you had a prior understanding of who your audience will be, which takes us back to tip number two; know your audience. It helps so much to plan your speech when you already know who you will be addressing for example if you are addressing youth, then you can equip yourself with information about what is trending in the youth world currently. That way you can never go wrong because then you know exactly what to say to tighten your grip on their attention to get total interest from your audience.
- Use your voice and hands effectively. Body language speaks so much about you and speaks volumes about the kind of speech you put up so watch it. Try as best as you can to omit nervous gestures like; staring at the floor, playing with your hands, among others. Represent yourself and whatever information you are trying to pass over with confidence. Be inspirational, be a model. Your appearance says so much about you. Avoid stutters, keep a calm leveled voice so that you do not irritate your audience with pitch high resonating volumes or extremely low inaudible sounds.
- Remember always that practice does not make perfect. You can never master it one hundred percent. Never. So it is okay to practice your speech a bit but keep in mind that there is no such thing as perfection in this. You will look like a talking robot if you cram up everything in your mind. You should always leave space for nature to shine through and you do not get that by practicing so hard you master everything by heart. Do not get panicked if you feel that you are not getting anywhere practicing. Be natural practicing. That way, you will be able to put up an even more natural show.
- Watch and respect your time. You are not there to speak the entire day, or are you? Whatever it is, know and respect your time. Maximise and make the best of the time assigned to you. Find a way to cunningly sum up your content according to the time assigned to you before your audience gets restless or irritated. Irrespective of how good a speaker you may be, your audience will definitely get irritated if you go over your assigned time so be respectful of your time.
- Avoid repetitions. If you find yourself in a situation where you have fully exhausted your content but still have time at your disposal, engage your audience. Ask questions or ask their opinions on the gist of your speech. Just be sure not to divert from the topic you are addressing, and be sure to not keep repeating yourself for the sake of occupying your entire assigned time. If it is inappropriate to engage your audience in such a manner, then make polite leave of the stage after exhaustively addressing the assigned topic of your speech. You cease to make sense if you keep repeating yourself over and over again, so do not. Rather sum up and sign off.
- Grab attention at the beginning of your speech and sum it up with a dynamic end. They will remember you and all information you shared if you leave a dynamic mark in the air. Crack up the crowd. Make a joke, tell a funny story, do something funny or silly as long as it will get them to focus and put all their attention on you as you sign off. Do not wait for bored hand claps signing you off. It should be absolute silence or a roaring applaud, no in between! So the exact dynamic energy at the start of your speech should be the exact replica of the energy you sign off with. That way you know that you have made an impression and left a mark on your audience.
So now you know that what speaks to your audience more than your words do, is the way you present yourself. You should be an image of solid confidence and intellect no matter how simple the occasion may be. However, do not over do it as it may cease to be confidence and become arrogance. There should be a thin line between confidence and arrogance. Let your image speak confidence, peace, love and simplicity for you to leave a positive impression on your audience.
You should keep at the bottom of your mind that public address is a speech. If you have the audacity to speak to a few people on a personal level then you definitely can speak to a crowd. With that at the back of your mind, you do not have to panic about your public address because your articulation of points should not differ in any way. If you master the above shared tips then you have it. Just put it into practice and you are good to go. So relax, relax and relax a bit more. Look at yourself in the mirror prior to your speech and remind yourself that you got this because you sure do. Dress up to the occasion. Be sure to look and feel smart for the occasion. Be fresh and have your act together matter of fact anticipate it. The nervousness will be there, it should be. But with appropriate preparation it should go away a few seconds after you take the stage.
Once you step on stage, breathe in and out and brace yourself for the next moment. Oh, and remember, you got this.