How to Get Through a Public Speaking Class

Here are some tips to help you survive and thrive in an Introduction to Public Speaking course. Even though public speaking is one of the greatest fears that most people have, it can actually be fun if you are able to effectively communicate to a group. Public speaking ability is also valuable to many professional career paths.


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    Realize that most public speaking classes require that students do a speech in three to four areas. These include informative, demonstrative, persuasive and entertaining speeches. Each category has its own specific style and approach.
    • Virtually any textbook on public speaking can provide you with plenty of detail on these types of speeches.
    • Often you will have a choice of what sub-topic you want to speak about. Always choose something that you are personally interested in and have some basic understanding of.
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    Focus on both speech research and delivery. Two of the key areas that you will be graded on include: the quality of your research, and the quality of your delivery.
    • The research needs to be from a well-known source, such as the New York Times. Generally it is a good idea to avoid using websites that have questionable facts or out-of-date information for your research.
    • The quality of your presentation includes such factors as how well you maintained eye contact with the audience, whether you varied the pitch of your voice, if you delivered the speech smoothly without relying too much on your notes, and whether you were able to communicate with passion and keep the audience interested in what you were talking about.
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    Practice, practice, practice. Public speaking can be, and is fun, if you are fully prepared and confident with your delivery. One of the best ways to get ready is to practice your speech in front of friends a few times to find out what they thought about it. Find an audience that is supportive, but realistic in their assessment. Another option is to record your speech on your camera phone and watch it. The more times you practice, the more smooth you will be in your delivery and the more confident you will be in front of a group.
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    Try to understand your professor or instructor's grading system. Often grades are based on points earned for the speeches, along with points for attendance, the final exam, etc. Even though it may seem like the points are set, professors will sometimes find a way to give extra credit to students who are enthusiastic or who make steady improvement throughout the semester. Missing a major speech can have the opposite effect, where you get the "doubt of the benefit."
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    Gain confidence. Perhaps the main reason that people fear speaking is that they are afraid that they will make a mistake and get laughed off the stage. The opposite is usually true... The audience wants you to succeed (they don't want to have a boring evening). If you do make a minor mistake, the audience often won't even notice. Trust yourself to self-correct in the moment. This is especially easy if you have prepared well and have plenty of material to share with the audience. One of the best strategies to staying relaxed and confident is to think of your speech as an extended conversation among friends, rather that a formal presentation.

Sources and Citations

  • Secrets Of Superstar Speakers: Wisdom from the Greatest Motivators of Our Time, by Lilly Walters. McGraw-Hill, 2000. Research source.

Article Info

Categories: Public Speaking | Speaking and Listening Skills