You have written your big speech and have it all rehearsed for TOMORROW. Is there anything else you can do to ensure you give the best version of your speech? Why yes!
1. Rehearse (a maximum) of three times: Either the night before or the morning of, (depending on your schedule), you may wish to go through your speech again. I would recommend three times, maximum. This will allow you to feel like you are prepared but ensure you will not suffer burn-out due to excessive rehearsals. Assuming you’ve been practicing regularly until this point, this will keep the speech “fresh”. Any adrenaline kicks you feel in front of the audience will help you push your speech one step further.
2. Do some karaoke and a crazy dance: I do a lot of (horrible) singing in the car as I drive to the event location. What began as a way to calm my nerves helped me realize was a great way to warm up my vocal chords. As a result, it felt ten times easier to project my voice. I would recommend doing vocal exercises, and/or engaging in some karaoke before your speech. Sing in an octave that is comfortable to you; your goal is to warm up your voice, not damage it.
I still suffer from jelly legs before a speech. A great way for me to cope is to listen to a fast paced dance song and do a crazy “I-don’t-care-who-is-watching-me-flail-around” dance. While you don’t have to flail, I would highly recommend some light stretching and exercise to warm up if you are prone to the nervous jitters.
3. Arrive early: Budget your trip to include time to find parking, especially if have never been there before. If there is a sound check, use that time to get acquainted with how your voice sounds over the microphone. If you don’t have sound check, still come early to survey your surroundings. Figure out where you will enter and exit. Work out the stage dimensions and make any mental last minute adjustments. Most importantly, take a moment to stand there and imagine what the room will be like with a packed audience. This will help ease any sudden surprises you may feel when you stand on the stage and realize: there are multiple pairs of eyes staring back at me!
4. Use the facilities (at least) once: Earlier this year, during one of the Toastmasters’ International Speech/Evaluation contests, a fellow Toastmaster and friend was set to compete. I believe he had planned to go to the washroom during the break (right before his contest) BUT at the last minute the contest orders were changed. Long story short, he competed while doing the mental bathroom dance. While he was a superb speaker and was not outwardly affected, it is never fun to have that thought running through your mind. Moral of the story: use the washroom once, or even twice, before the event is set to begin.
5. Take sips of water: Nerves may leave you with a dry mouth and a dry throat; I know it does for me. While you may not want to drink litres of water before you are set to give your speech (to avoid said bathroom dance mentioned under Rule #4), it is highly advised you take regular sips of water to avoid feeling like your mouth has suddenly become the Sahara Desert. That way, you will be able to get up onto the stage and give your speech without sounding like a “tsk-ing” grandma.