Public speaking is the most common fear among college students surveyed, according to the University of Nebraska's Karen Dwyer and Marlina Davidson. Sixty-two percent of the study participants indicated that they were anxious about speaking publicly. Because many college courses involve making speeches, this presents a concern. However, with adequate preparation and some rehearsal time, you can survive the dreaded college speech presentation.
The first step in giving a good speech is to prepare diligently for the event. Once you've selected a topic, look for a new angle from which to approach the subject. Find something fresh and even unusual to discuss. Next, ask yourself what you want to accomplish through the speech. If your only answer is "to get a good grade," your audience will know that and will tune out quickly. Think about what you want to teach the listeners and what you want them to think or do because of your speech.
Now you need to organize your research. Whether you use a concept web, mind map or traditional outline, write down at least three points you want to make and the supporting details. At the top of the page, write your thesis statement -- the one main point that you want the audience to leave understanding. Colored index cards make organization easier. Write your first main idea and subpoints on one color of card. Do the same thing for each of the other main points. Lay the cards out on the table to see quickly which points need further development. Move your card sets around until you find the best order for the points.
Unlike a written assignment, your introduction should be short and simple. Start with an attention-grabbing story, some surprising statistics or a question. Move quickly into your thesis and a brief summary of your points, getting straight to the point. Begin the main portion of your speech with the most important point. Repeat key words frequently to help the listeners connect your points. Follow with your weakest argument, and then finish with your second strongest point. Don't overwhelm the audience with unnecessary statistics or quotations just to fill time. Conclude your speech with a restatement of the main points and a call to action.
Practicing your speech may be the most important part of your preparation. Type the key words of each point and subpoint in a 20-point or larger font, avoiding complete sentences. By forcing yourself to compose the actual sentences as you speak, you keep things fresh and interesting. Now, practice your speech several times to be sure you have everything in the best order and that you pace it appropriately. Note which information you could omit if you run out of time. When you are sure you are ready for class, ask a friend to listen to you practice again.
When the big moment arrives, relax and pause for a few seconds before you begin; allow yourself to take some calming breaths, which gives the audience time to turn their attention to you. Talk to your audience as you would to an individual or a small group of friends rather than pontificating. Scan the room and try to make eye contact with every person at least once, and move away from the lectern, if possible. Speak slowly and clearly. If you see that you are running out of time, skip the points you marked earlier, rather than talking faster. Speak loudly enough that everyone can hear, but vary the pitch and volume of your voice to keep things interesting.
- University of Nebraska Omaha: Dwyer, Davidson Disprove Public Speaking Fear as "Worse Than Death"
- University of Rhode Island: How to Write a Good Speech
- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Writing Center: Speeches
- Centenary College: How to Make a Good Speech
- Whitman College: How to Give a Speech
- Frankfort International School: How to Give a Good Speech
- Jerz's Literacy Weblog: Oral Presentations - Tips on How to Deliver a Speech for School or Work
- Everest: How to Give an Effective Class Presentation
- Bridgewater State College: How to Give Better Presentations
- Bucknell University: How to Give a Speech
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