Giving a speech in a second language is not easy. When we speak in our native languages we can sometimes improvise while we are speaking and add information or reduce information. When we speak in a second language it is much more difficult to improvise because a lot of our attention is devoted to the language itself. Since it is more difficult to improvise, it is important to prepare thoroughly before giving a speech in a second language.
How should you prepare? First, write out what you will say in your speech or take notes of what you will say. When I first started giving speeches in Japanese, my second language, I would write out everything I planned to say. After the experience of a few speeches though, I started giving speeches from notes. I recommend that you do whatever makes you feel the most comfortable. If you do not have much time to prepare, I think that giving speeches from notes is the most efficient method.
When writing out the speech, remember that the speech should be in your own words. The worst speeches in English I have seen were when students wrote their speech in Japanese and then used a translating program to put it into English. When they gave their speech, they simply read the computer translation. In these cases, the audience and even the speakers themselves did not understand the speech! When you put your speech in your own words, your personality is revealed because you have ownership of what is being said. Regardless of whether or not you are advanced in the second language, your personality and interest in the subject will maintain the listener’s interest in your speech.
Also, when preparing your speech consider who your audience will be. Will your audience be familiar with the topic of your speech? If your audience is not familiar with part of the topic, for example the fall of Ayutthaya in a topic such as “The Effect of the Historical Fall of Ayutthaya on Present Day Thailand-Myanmar Relations” you will have to explain about the fall of Ayutthaya.
The second part of preparation is practicing the speech. Even though I am fairly experienced at speaking publicly in a second language, I would never speak without practicing and always find the time to practice. Do not feel embarrassed about speaking out loud when no one is in the room or when other people not related to your speech are in the room. I have practiced for speeches in such places as my car outside the speech venue, a bullet train, a plane, a hotel room, a hotel lobby, a park bench, my office, and, of course, my house. In all these cases, the speeches I gave were successful because I took the time to practice.
When you practice speaking remember that maintaining eye contact with the audience during a speech is essential. If the speaker is staring at his manuscript or notes the whole time he is speaking, it will be harder for the audience to concentrate on the speech. Thus, when preparing for your speech, stare at a wall pretending that it is your audience, and try to say as much as your speech as possible to the wall while occasionally taking quick glimpses at your notes or manuscript.
Another thing to keep in mind when practicing is time. Time limits for a speech can be from 5 to 30 minutes. Even 5 minutes can seem very long, but when you practice you will realize that you do not have enough time to finish your speech! Usually when I practice, I find that I have to remove a third of the content from my speech to finish in the allotted time. Finishing on time is extremely important. For example, when a speaker finishes his speech in 20 minutes when it was supposed to be 15 minutes, it is rude to the next speaker who is waiting and the listeners find it annoying too because it extends the time of the event they are attending.
Although finishing on time is important, your speech should not be hurried. Let’s say that you have to speak as fast as you can to give what should be an 18 minute speech in 15 minutes. If you do this, I can guarantee you that your audience will not understand what you said. If you have 15 minutes to speak, make sure that you can finish your speech within those 15 minutes speaking at a moderate pace that is not too fast or too slow for your audience.
Lastly, when you are preparing for a speech it is a good idea to have someone look at your manuscript/notes or listen to the speech. The person could be your teacher, a classmate or a friend. The feedback that you receive from this person will help you give a better speech.