As communication majors public speaking is a battle that we all must go through, whether we like it or not. Public speaking has been around since before the times of Socrates. However, just because it’s and oldie doesn’t mean it’s a goody. At West Chester public speaking is a required course for those who wish to be accepted into the communication major. These classes are taught by many different professors, but the content is all relatively the same. The goal of a public speaking class is to make sure that all students to learn the the different methods of public speaking as well as the proper way to give speeches, presentations, etc.
At West Chester our professors are excellent when it comes to lecturing about public speaking. Professor’s are also constantly encouraging their students to be confident and conquer their fears of public speaking. Despite their best efforts most of us are still terrified to stand up in front of a group of people and speak. I am here to share a few tips to help students face their fear of public speaking as well as help them get through a speech without a mental breakdown.
Nothing really says “get over it” more than the word mandatory. As a communication major public speaking is mandatory and you have no choice but to take the class. Most students get it over with during their freshmen year so it doesn’t loom over them. My first piece of advice to you all is that you must accept the fact that you’ll be giving a speech. Students have tried to give professors every excuse in the book, but even the best attempts have failed. Since you know it’s inevitable you may as well accept it. I also highly recommend going first so that you can get it over with. You may think you’re doing yourself a favor by waiting until the last day to give your speech, but in reality it will only make you more nervous. Do yourself a favor and sign-up for an early speech date.
Prepare in advance.
The method of creating a speech and presentation the night before it is due is a tried and not-so-true method. Many students put off speeches until the night before they are due (we’ve all been there). However, the truth is if you write a speech the night before it will be pretty obvious to everyone. Do yourselves a favor and start preparing for your speech THE DAY you hear about it. I’m not saying go home and do it all the day it’s assigned, but what I am saying is to start brainstorming a little bit every day. If you prepare a little bit at a time, instead of the night before, you will have a much better understanding of what you are doing and will be more likely to catch mistakes you’ve made.
Practice may not make perfect, but it can get you close. A speech, much like any other craft, must be practiced often and consistently. Practice your speech a little bit at a time as you write it. This way you will build on material as opposed to trying to practice everything at once. Note that practice does not mean memorize your entire speech. It is very apparent when someone memorizes their speech and as an audience member it is very boring to watch. I recommend practicing in front of a mirror or maybe some friends or colleagues. It may seem a little awkward, but it will benefit you in the long run.
On the day of your speech it is more than likely that you will still be frightened to give your speech, regardless of preparation. This is perfectly normal, but you can not let it consume you. Even the professionals get nervous before giving a speech, in fact if you’re not even a little nervous there may be something wrong with you. Before giving a speech I recommend that you try and relax. You can try to relax by doing breathing exercises, closing your eyes and going through your speech, or whatever helps you to relax. Relaxing before your speech will help you unwind and help you seem more calm while you are giving your speech.
Give the speech.
After doing the first 4 steps there is only one thing left to do….give the speech. You’ve thought about this moment since the day the speech was assigned, and you are ready for it. Try and remain calm and not let your adrenaline get the best of you. Get up there and give your speech the same way you have practiced it over and over again. Some people pretend that the audience isn’t there when they are giving a speech. I must urge you to not pretend that the audience isn’t there, instead get them involved in the speech. Establish eye contact throughout your speech and maybe even ask questions to the audience to get them involved. It will help take some of the pressure off of yourself and will allow you to take a few moments to catch your breathe.
The truth is when you’re giving your speech you won’t have time to be nervous. You will be so engulfed in everything that is going on around you that nerves will be the last thing on your mind. I could probably talk about different techniques and ways to get over your fear for days, but I believe that you have enough information here to get you through your speech. I don’t even know you, and I know that you are going to do well on your speech. See that? A complete and total stranger (me) has the confidence that you will succeed and give a great speech, so why don’t you?