A few of these entries have addressed the issue of applying adequate practice prior to competing at the national level, but I must also address the danger of “overworking” a speech. We must NEVER SOUND REHEARSED, affected, or like we are on “auto-pilot.” It is easy to fall into rhythmic, overly-rehearsed patterns at this place in the competitive season because competitors actually have said their speeches hundreds of times! Beware.
If you fear this is the case, and you are not delivering from an honest, heartfelt place – here are a couple of suggestions. Sit down. Try giving your speech, or portions of it, to someone at the kitchen table. This should reinstate a conversational quality to your delivery. Another idea is to discuss your “message” or “moral” with someone you trust, and do not use any language from your speech or script. Refocus. Be sure to keep caring about the essence of your message. Imagine in your mind’s eye your audiences and why you want them to hear it, even though the audience may primarily be judges, fellow competitors, and handfuls of visitors in the room. You have worked hard to develop these speeches and earn your bid to Nationals. Return to your “first love” [remember the reasons for composing these speeches months ago] and render your messages genuinely.
Here’s one of my favorite exhortations from Dale Carnegie in his book, Public Speaking for Success, [a great read for this summer, by the way]
“If you speak in public so that the people hearing you will suspect that you have had training in public speaking, you will not be a credit to your instructor. To be truly effective, you must speak with such intensified and exalted naturalness that your auditors will never dream that you have been trained. A good window does not call attention to itself. It merely lets in the light. Good speakers are like that. They are so natural that their hearers never notice their manner of speaking, they are conscious only of the message.” p. 153
Be those windows and let in the light!