I want to begin this post by saying that I don't volunteer to speak. I'm not one of those guys who's always MCing this or giving a speech about that. I speak in public only if I have no other choice, and those situations come by rarely enough that I've had very little experience actually being on stage and talking.
Last week, though, I was at an NCC camp, and the PI (Permanent Instructor, for you non-NCC folk) staff decided that I should host an event on account of I spoke decent English. Normally, I would refuse, but in the NCC, if they ask you to jump over a cliff, you need to have been over that cliff five minutes ago. You don't get to ask why you're jumping off of a cliff, you just jump. So it was that three days into the camp, I found myself on stage with a co-MC I didn't really know, in a uniform that I had lost the knack of wearing and holding a mic that caught, oh, about 50% of the words you spoke into it.
At first, I was incredibly nervous. The previous time I had been the MC at an NCC event had been a bit of a disaster. I didn't read the programme out correctly, I kept stumbling over my lines, I couldn't stop stammering and saying "Uh" while I spoke... I daresay I had reason to be worried. Standing on stage with my shoulders hunched, I desperately hoped that by some miracle, I'd do a decent job this time round.
At first, I went by the speech that my co-anchor and I had come up with that morning. We decided that we were far better off safe than sorry and came up with an extremely formal, extremely boring speech. "Good evening and a warm welcome to all the dignitaries seated on the dais and my co-cadets," that sort of thing. About ten minutes in, I made a mistake - I asked the dignitaries to move off the stage when they were supposed to remain onstage until the next act was finished. It was at that point that I had my epiphany: reading from the prepared script wasn't going to work for me, because that's just not how people speak. From that point on, I only used the script to figure out what the next act was, and then made up an introduction on the fly. The funny thing was, the more acts I introduced, the more confident I got.
At the end of the show, our camp commandant himself told me that I'd done a good job. They had me MC three other events at that camp alone. I suppose that's one thing I can say the NCC has done for me - they helped me overcome my stage fright.