I tend to avoid speeches because of the anxiety I feel before and during the speech. I get nervous preparing or just thinking about it weeks in advance. It really is tough to drive to the venue the day of the speech, but gets even worse when I push myself to walk into the venue. I feel like a gladiator stepping into the coliseum. Once I step in, my brain floods my body with anxiety, butterflies, blushing, cold hands, and shakiness. I think the anxiety is worse when there are more than one presenter and I am last to go. Sitting, looking around the crowd, and waiting for my turn drives my nerves off a cliff.
Does anyone have certain things they do to calm themselves the days, hours and minutes before giving a speech?
The only thing that really helped me with nerves is massive amounts of practice. It doesn't mean I don't ever get nerves. From acting I have found I actually like to have a little bit of nerves before I go on. I think I do better when I have some nerves instead of none. I think it makes me get more worked up back stage which means in turn I have more energy on stage.
As for giving speeches I have learned to approach it like a stage performance. I first write the speech like its a script. I then read it out loud over and over to hear what it sounds like. As I am doing that I then make corrections to the speech to make it sound better out loud. Sometimes what you write doesn't sound as good when its spoken. After I have gone through several times and made corrections to the whole speech I then keep practicing it out loud and start memorizing the speech. As I memorize the speech I then rewrite condensed versions with just enough sentences or words to recall the full speech. I continue to practice, memorize, and shorten the written speech until I can just recite my speech just by looking at a word or two for each paragraph. Its also ok at this point if you do not recite the speech exactly as you wrote the original full version. It means your putting more of yourself into it and it will be more natural when you actually do the speech. Next I start thinking about my actions and how I will move around the space I am giving the speech. Its a good idea if you can practice in the space you are giving the speech or have a reasonable mock up so you can practice how you will move around the space or what actions you might do with your hands if you are just standing in front of a podium. I find if I practice the speech in the space I will natuaraly find ways I can move about the space or move my body that works with the speech.
After all that practice I still get nervous before I do the speech, but because I have practiced it to the point its second nature to me once I start giving the speech its like I am just on autopilot and the nerves go away once I start the speech. Also I think all the rehearsing helps me be less nervous because I have practiced about every combination of words for the speech possible. So if I happen to use a different word then I thought I was during the speech I have probably at some point said the speech that way and I can keep going without any problem.
All the symptoms you described sound just like I was before I discovered acting and learned to present my speech like a stage performance. If I do minimal preparation I am a ball of nerves, stumble through my speech, forget what I am going to say, I begin to panic, and voice crackles with nerves. However after I learned to do a large amount of preparation the nerves are minimized and I have very little problems giving the speech.