Professional Development: Perfecting Your Public Speaking Skills
Public Speaking In The Classroom
The Purpose of Public Speaking
I remember my first public speaking experience from fourth grade at Lincoln School Elementary. Our class assignment was to read a bibliography, complete a book report and to share the highlights of the book with the class. I was fine with the first two parts but the oral report was one that had me tossing and turning the night before my simple, crude, short speech. Before presenting my report, my stomach hurt, my head ached and my throat was so dry. I thought I was going to faint from the experience. My sister had done this last year in the class when it was her turn, and so I thought maybe it was a family tradition for me to set for my little sister following in a couple of years. In the end, I stumbled through it without significant incidence (Thank God!).
Jerry Seinfeld is quoted as saying he would rather be the person in the coffin than to give the eulogy at a funeral. This statement comes from someone who is before audiences almost every day as an entertainer. What we call stage fright is common and has been studied by psychologists, sociologists, medical experts and theater and drama. Public Speaking is communication vital to our sharing of knowledge, and influencing others on important topics and beliefs.
Public Speaking is taught as part of Professional Development in college to prepare students for the times when they may be called upon to present their views to an audience. They must be prepared to speak eloquently, knowledgeably, and with professionalism. Oral communication is intended to influence, persuade or to inform an audience and one must know their audience in order to present well. A public speaker will know how to communicate effectively to different audiences and must remember to make arguments or to present in such a manner as to make the speech relevant and valuable to the listener. For a student, knowing how to speak in public well will not only help them on special occasions, but to communicate information clearly and effectively when on the job and in their future leadership roles.
“According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
Top 10 Phobias: Public Speaking is No. 5
Open/Crowded Places (Agoraphobia)
Public Speaking (Glossophobia)
Preparing an Infomational Speech on ProcessesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Public Speaking To Inform
This module I am teaching students Public Speaking, and in planning I thought it would be a great learning activity to have them engage in a project leading to the understanding of how to give an Informative Speech on processes. The project began with making a simple Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich (PBJ). In general, Informative Speeches convey knowledge and understanding of a topic and having to construct a topic from the beginning would prove beneficial in organizing their thoughts. The basic types of informational speeches are events, objects, processes (or "how to") and concepts. Putting a speech together is similar to writing a recipe and so the PBJ project gave them added insight as to how to make their speech meaningful.
Their objectives were:
- To understand how a PBJ is made
- Write the processes for making "the best PBJ sandwich"
- Create a simple Powerpoint slide presentation highlighting only key points (2 slides total)
- To inform the audience on the series of actions needed to create a PBJ.
Organization is important in speeches about processes and speakers must ensure each step is clear, easy to follow and engaging. Additionally, a speaker must not assume that their audience is aware or knowledgeable about the topic and explaining the details, such as what PBJ means, will help them to relate to the topic.
In this speech project, students were encouraged to personalize their speech with a little humor. Since it was their first formal speech, most students kept their jokes simple in order to present safely and effectively. Humor is helpful in speeches because it helps everyone to relax and sets an environment of goodwill favorable to communication.
Sample Joke for Opening Speech
What do you call a chicken with no legs?
Cast Your Vote!
What is your favorite PBJ topping?
Polishing Your Public Speaking Skills
According to the World Health Organization, seventy-five percent (75%) of the world population suffers from speech anxiety. High profile people, such as politicians, doctors, lawyers and actors experience stage fright just before making a presentation speech. Eighty-one percent of business executives state public speaking is the most nerve-wracking experience they face (source: Birmingham Post, Aug. 25, 2003; Public Speaking Tests The Nerves of Most Directors, D. Jones).
I stress to my students that the fear of public speaking is reduced by preparation and practice. Prepare, prepare, prepare and practice, practice, practice! As I stated earlier, nervousness is normal when preparing to speak publicly, but knowing how to minimize the effect on your presentation will help you to communicate effectively. I provide many in-class speech opportunities to help them gain experience and confidence . They relax as they learn the basics of public speaking and gain the support of their fellow classmates.
Other tips in public speaking are to think positively, remember that the message should be the focus of your speech and not you. Visualizing yourself as giving a successful speech will help to overcome the negativity of speech making. I also tell them to take a few deep breaths before taking the spotlight and to remember that no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and your audience wants you to succeed. As my piano teacher used to say, "practice makes perfect over time."
Answer to joke: An egg!
© 2012 Dianna Mendez