Lack of sleep, dry throat, sweaty hands, grasping the podium and fiddling with the tie are all signs of nervousness. According to a Toastmasters International manual on using gestures, you can control mental and emotional nervous energy through intense preparation and practice. Use gestures, eye contact and body movement to harness the physical nervous energy and channel it into a powerful presentation. You can never eliminate nervous tension, but you can control it and make those butterflies in your stomach fly in formation.
Prepare and practice the speech because that is the best way to ease nervous tension. Find out about the audience, their backgrounds, requirements and concerns. Read the speech several times to be comfortable with the structure and the content. Remove big words and convoluted concepts because if you have trouble pronouncing or understanding something during practice, it can only get worse in front of a crowd.
Visualize yourself giving the speech. Communication consultant and author Nick Morgan recommends that you create a detailed mental film of you giving the speech. Close your eyes and replay it in your mind. Visit the speech venue to help in this visualization.
Arrive early and mingle with the audience. This will ease some of the nervous tension for both you and your audience.
Stretch and breathe deeply just before the speech. Some speakers yawn and smile broadly before a speech because it relaxes the face muscles and works off some of the nervous energy. Some recommend imagining your audience in (or out of) various articles of clothing, but this might not always be a relaxing experience. Take small sips of water, but avoid ice-cold water because that could dry out your throat.
Memorize the first minute of your speech. Even if you are reading from your notes the rest of the way, commit the first 100 words to memory. Establish eye contact with the audience and smile. Use humor sparingly in the introduction because the audience might not share your sense of humor.
Use natural gestures. Do not try to memorize hand and body movements because you might look stilted. Body movement burns nervous energy but over-gesturing could distract the audience. Do not take halting steps, shuffle or rock on your feet because these are outward signs of nervousness. Everything you do on stage must have a purpose.
Focus on your audience. Stop worrying about how you look and do not over-analyze audience reaction. Do not let distractions affect you because you could lose your train of thought and ruin the rest of your speech. If you miss a word or even a paragraph, do not apologize and start over because the chances are your audience never caught it.
Relax because your audience wants you to succeed. Imagine your listeners secretly cheering for you during the speech and applauding you at the end of the speech.