It is always said that the first fifteen seconds are all you have to either grip or lose the audience. When do these fifteen seconds begin though? When you walk up to the mike after your name is announced? Just at the time when your name is being announced? Or is it when you have sized up your audience and begun speaking?
Being in the speech mode should start much before, even before you leave your house to go make your speech. It should actually begin the previous night. Go over all the points you have to speak on and let them be the last things you think of before you go off to sleep. This ensures that they are there all night, continuously being churned through the subconscious mind. You will almost always find that when you get up, the speech is crystal clear in your mind or if there are inconsistencies in the argument they are lit up separately. After you have gone over these once, banish the speech to the back of your mind, confident in the belief that when you need it, the back of the mind will throw it forward just as you want it.
Always take the precaution of ensuring that you have slept and rested enough on the day of the speech ensuring your energies are at their peak. If you are tired, the back of the mind is going to be tired too and just when you need it, it is likely to fall asleep.
It is also likely to fall asleep if you have eaten too heavily and it is good to only have a light meal well before the event so that the post-meal drowsiness has passed well before you enter the venue. A cup of coffee taken at a time which will ensure that the kick of the coffee cup hits you just about when you are going to go up on stage is also a good strategy.
Dress appropriately and not sloppily and ensure that your notes etc are all properly clipped and kept in a folder. A sloppy dresser can almost never convey poise and confidence nor can a speaker whose notes fall all over the place as he walks up to the dais.
In the speech mode obviously, other activities need to be curtailed, including mental energy draining activities and any activities that tire you out physically. These divert your mental focus on things other than your speech. These include all frenetic work-related activities, tiring activities like driving a long distance to reach the venue and any activities that disturb your equilibrium and take your mind off the speech.
It is best to walk into the venue a few minutes before time,- rested, energetic and focused.
And that is when your 15 seconds begin!!!!!
Yes, the fifteen seconds begin the moment you enter the venue since eyes are on you from the moment you enter. If you enter the venue with eyes downcast or hesitantly ask for the organizer or shuffle up to the stage there is no way a show of confidence is likely to hold up if the some or most of the members of the audience have already made up their minds in that you seem a shifty character!
So walk in confidently, take a seat by yourself or walk over and talk to the organizers and then take your seat and sit erect, confident and focused as you wait for the speeches to begin. Do not even try to go around meeting the audience trying to be one of the crowds, because that will give the feeling that you are short on confidence and hence currying favor.
Talk to the other speakers, look around the venue to see what kind of audience is present, try to identify the opinion leaders amongst them (so that you can focus on them while speaking) check out the lighting, the sound system, identify sources of disturbing noise (like faulty fans or air conditioners, so that you can ask for them to be shut off as you speak) and check if there are any items on the stage likely to distract the audience from your speech.
Ensure that all these are taken off with a discreet conversation with the organizers and then sit and wait for your name to be called out and walk confidently over to the mic, secure in the knowledge that the audience has been seeing you as confident every moment of the time you have been at the venue and then, well then let the speech rollllllll.
You have won half the battle already even before the first word is uttered.