Do you feel nervous, anxious, does your heart go a million miles per hour, do you feel sick and have a need for personal space, without anyone touching you or speaking to you, or you just feel out of your comfort zone when you are about to give a speech in front of an audience?
Some people are born with the ability to speak in front of large crowds, some grow it in time, some have to by-pass the approach that their brain has about this subject.
I will tell you quick and simple techniques and behaviours that will help you...
1. You and the Audience
What is the relashionship?
The fourth wall is a term that references the imaginary limit that separates and artist on the stage and the audience. This means that the characters, cartoon characters or played by real actors, don't know that there is an audience that watches them; they are oblivious of their existence. You will also hear people saying "the breaking of the fourth wall": this means that one of the characters discovers that there is an audience and that he can interact with them... this technique is sometimes done when the character looks straight in the camera or theater, and gives the audience an understanding look, more like a little secret between the characters and the audience.
Why is the fourth wall important?
Because, if you speak in front of a large audience, you can decide to play a character, and then you can decide wether or not you want to break the fourth wall... it is very easy not to break it and to speak in front of an audience that you are not bothered with, and to do so there are two ways:
1. You blur them out completely. Don't focus at anyone, at any face, at any particular individual.
2. You select one person from the audience (it can be a friend that you asked to come to the event, or it can be a total stranger, picked randomly from the audience) and you concentrate your speech to him or her. You can move around, you can look at the ceiling, the floor or at the stage, but you actually speak to that person, and from time to time you simply move your head and you look straight and them. The rest of the audience will not really pick that up, they'll think that's just how you move around.
In case you speak on an actual stage with flood lights then the second solution is hard to manage because stage lights sometimes make you unable to see anything beyond the limit of the actual stage. So, my take on this is to practice both, just to be on the safe side.
How to remember the speech that I prepared?
...look at the best
The simple answer is that it's very difficult and rather unpractical. So my opinion is that you shouldn't try to learn a speech by heart, because if you do so, you fall into the danger of having moments of blankness that, because of anxiety, are very hard to pass. Mind you, there is a possibility that because of the adrenaline in your body, present at that moment, you will be able to get right back up and carry on without a problem, but just to be on the safe side, let's try something different.
Some of the greatest comedians of all time, including Joan Rivers, Robin Williams and the late George Carlin, have been writing parts of their routine on little pieces of paper that they hold during their stand-up, on their sleeves, on their microphones or big pieces of paper scattered down on the stage. Remember, these people stay sometimes more than an hour, an hour and half on stage and talk to the audience and expect people to pay attention and laugh.
So what I'm trying to tell you is that there is no shame or problem to keep in your hand a piece of paper on which you wrote your speech... but that's not all...
What to write down from the speech on the paper?
As I told you before, don't bother with the whole speech. What you need to do is section it in a number of little speeches, each with a separate and coherent idea.
Then, you write for each paragraph a title and on a separate line the first line of the paragraph. That's it and that's all. Don't write more because you will have the tendency to always look and read from the paper and the audience will find it annoying.
What you need to do is understand the idea of each paragraph during the writing process and then just read the titles and the beginnings so that you will remember the order and then you just start telling the story.
If this is not relevant for you, because you don't write the speeches down, then I recommend asking from time to time questions and even big questions, and these questions will be your titles, because you will then have the main idea for that part of the speech.
Posture and body language
What to do with my hands when I speak standing up? What to do with my hands and legs when I sit down?
If you're standing up...
Many people have a problem with what to do with their hands and how to move when they have to speak in public. It is obvious that putting your hands in your pockets is quite wrong and if you also have a suit then that can look very weird.
However, we do know the fact that people feel more secure when they have something to "hand on to"... something that gives our hands a purpose... a very silly purpose but nonetheless...
One example is holding a pen, or a clipboard. The clipboard works only in some situations, when it's relevant. The pen can be used to point in the air, to draw circles or arches in the air. It looks more natural even if you then hold the pen with both hands. If you have a presentation that is projected somewhere at a height, you can use a laser pointer, even those that replicate a pen.
It's important to use your hands, not too much, but just enough. And enough means... in those moments when you want to emphasize something... the big ending of an idea or even a sentence. Also, if you refer to you audience, opening your hands makes them part of you speech. People react better when they feel that they are part of what you are saying. Don't talk about this amazing project that others are doing and then wrap up. No... tell them about the project, and then explain how maybe their feedback grew into a project, or how they can be part of that project. If you are at a fundraising event, don't tell them about how lucky the organisation is to have received a donation... tell them that because of their work, and struggles, the issue became important for the public. You don't change the facts; you present them in a more "Yes, we can" and "Well, we actually did it" way.
If you sit down...
Don't spread your legs, it's just wrong. To feel more comfortable put them one in front of the other and at a distance.
Some people also find that they have a very hard time keeping their voice steady. What I found that helps a lot is actually a very natural reaction of our body. One of the positions that we feel most relaxed is the fetal position, a position that we sometimes automatically get when we are in deep pain. Having our limbs close together to our abdomen and chest is soothing.
If you are sitting down then you can relax with your back to the chair, put one leg over the other, your hands on your lap and some people also lean very slightly in. If done right, it gives the impression of a very composed person. Be careful not to look smug or even more nervous.
How do I keep a rhythm in my speech and how not to lose it?
For this problem there are a couple of tricks referring to the usage of your body.
...and the inspiration for these is the metronome (the instrument that produces a steady ticking noise). The metronome is used by musicians. You will see sometimes that when a musician is playing they feel the need for a metronome, so they end up moving one leg to a rhythm, or for pianists especially, rocking their upper body.
So, in other word you can use your hands and/or legs.
To force the ideas out in a steady rhythm you can, from time to time, throw one arm to the audience or point in the air to emphasize a very important idea and you can also move back and forward with a steady pace. I usually take two steps back, end with an important idea, then build up the next idea while getting back to the original position and then end that idea with two steps in front. However, you can't do this during the whole speech, because it becomes obvious and annoying
What you have to remember, and this is the most important part, tell it as a story, it is easier that way.