It seems like the right thing to do to calm the nerves a bit, but starting off with a joke could have the adverse effect, and make your time on stage feel like a lifetime.
The best thing you can do is start strong - a personal anecdote is always a good way to start as it gives your audience something to relate to.
The way you speak is vital in order to keep your audience's attention. Speak a little louder than usual, and remember to talk slowly and clearly.
Think outside the box
Get creative with your speech and veer away from addressing your audience formally as it can have a boring effect.
Statistics and quotes are generally a good way to get people listening to your speech, and their interest in what you have to say will only make your presentation easier.
Getting help from professionals before a big speech is a great way to feel more at ease when the time comes to stand in front of a group of people.
The Ernst & Young Toastmasters Club is an internationally recognised organisation that helps people develop their communication skills, and can assist in not letting your nerves get the better of you on the big day of your speech.
The Writing Center has excellent online information before giving a presentation. Their website not only has tips on presenting your speech, but also offers help in compiling your speech to best gain your audience's attention.
These are all easy to imply, but actually physically giving the speech is the hard part, so remember to practice, relax, do breathing exercises before and don't read your speech, appear comfortable and keep it simple and short.
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