I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to speak in front of people on several different occasions, and someone asked my advice on an upcoming speech they were struggling with.
Sometimes I've spoken to groups of five, sometimes 200, and every single one is fucking terrifying. I've prepared, written, rehearsed, re-written, thrown away, started again and promptly gone freestyle during the speech. The only thing I've learnt is that I don't know what i'm doing.
I know people that have taken toastmaster lessons to the highest degree, and some that ad-lib every time, and the results vary. There certainly is a skill to speaking to a crowd, or at least maintaining the interest of a crowd, and I'm not sure it can be learnt. People I know that have taken public speaking coaching have gone on to be very mediocre and frankly boring, then some with no training or education on the subject have gone on to be captivating.
Just like anything creative, (and good public speaking is creative), there's only so far the technical knowledge and theory can take you, if you don't care about what you're saying and have no passion, it shows. There are countless examples of this in the form of TED talks, Google it and watch some. I've watched very interesting talks on boring topics, because the speaker made the difference.
All of my talks and speeches have felt bad. I've gotten compliments and praise sometimes, but it's difficult to tell what is friendly support and what is genuine appreciation (although either way it's nice to hear). When I think back on them I cringe and try to forget them rapidly, it's difficult to deal with because some of them are about my closest friends and family and I care about doing a good job.
Therein lies the rub, if you don't try your hardest, you'll regret it, but sometimes utilising the ad-lib really works. Should you rehearse? It's totally dependant on your objective. If you're a freeform jazz saxophonist rehearsal isn't necessary, the journey is in the exploration of the unknown and unplanned. However, If you have a best man speech to perform, it's wise to prepare, particularly as there is a list of people you must mention in a certain order, but you can ad-lib the stories element.
But, as I always say, do what you want.
See you next week.