5 Tips for Better Public Speaking in Class
Public speaking is likely to be a big part of your academic experience. Like it or not, you need to develop your speaking skills if you want to get the best grades possible. Read on to find out how you to improve your confidence, delivery and audience engagement.
1. Know Your Top 3 Messages
There are 2 things you need to remember about speaking to a class: you’re not going to remember everything you want to say, and even if you did, your audience won’t remember most of what you say anyway. Instead of trying to say as much information as possible in a short amount of time, really focus on the key 3 messages you want your audience to remember. If you also focus on the top 3 things, it’s less to forget and you can make sure you don’t accidentally miss your most important points. Spend time reinforcing what’s really important. Planning a speech is entirely different than planning a paper; engagement is a lot more important than information when you’re speaking.
2. Practice Makes Perfect
If you don’t practice your speech, you’re going to have a bad time (and get a lot mark). Your insightful arguments and ground-breaking research don’t mean a thing if you deliver them poorly. Before every presentation or speech, practice out loud at least 3 times in an environment that’s as similar as possible to the real thing. At least 1 of those times should be in front of friends or family members with a timer. And, just as with the real presentation, focus on the message first rather than the words, the tools, or the people watching.
It’s normal to be nervous. It’s not a bad thing; in fact, it gives you extra energy to get through the presentation. Before you get in front of the class, take comfort in your practice session results, focus on your breathing and do whatever helps you to relax, perhaps clenching and unclenching your fists. When you’re up in front of the group, look for friends in the audience and try to smile. Seeing friends will relax you and smiling will help to relax the audience. If you do make a mistake, forget about it and move on; no-one will may any attention to it unless you point it out.
4. Interact With Your Audience
Most student presentations are really, really boring for the audience. Don’t be one of them. Try asking the audience questions as you speak, even to get a show of hands. It takes the pressure off of you and the audience feels more engaged. Try to think of creative ways to help your audience have more fun.
5. Speak Comfortably
The way you deliver your material can be the most important part of the presentation. Stand up straight when you speak and try to find a comfortable position. Don’t lean on things and don’t sway, but it is ok to walk around a bit as you speak. Speak a bit louder and slower than you normally would, and try to vary the speaking volume, speed and pitch. Surprise your audience with a bit of a show! Give your audience something to watch by incorporating gestures and appropriate facial expressions. And, as much as possible, try not to read anything. Make sure you look at the audience at least every few seconds and try to speak to them, rather than something in your hands or on a screen, throughout the session.