CHAMPION STRATEGIES – PUBLIC SPEAKING WORKSHOP – APRIL 5, 2021
Tips for Surviving Speech Class
Speech class: nearly all of us must face this fear head-on as undergrads since it is one of the major requirements in general education. Did you know that more people are afraid of speaking in public than they are of dying? It’s true! Like you, I dreaded this class in a serious way – I avoided it for as long as I possibly could. But eventually I had to face my fears and once I did I realized it wasn’t as scary as I had thought it would be! However, there were a few things I did that really helped me survive. Here they are:
- Take the class during an intercession (short semester). My academic adviser recommended this option and at first I thought she was crazy. In my mind, taking it during intercession (or summer school) would make it worse because I would be cramming a lot of work into a short term. However, when I look back I realize that it gave me less time to panic and/or overthink the idea of speaking in front of people. And while I ended up loving the class and finding it really influential in my career choices, I was happy to have gotten it “over with” quickly.
- Make friends with your classmates. Instead of hiding in a corner, I arrived early and got to know some of my classmates. I was less afraid to make eye contact and more willing to relax while speaking which really helped. Also, quite a few of these students ended up remaining friends with me, and that was an unexpected benefit of this class!
- Support and respect your peers. When your classmates are up in front of everyone giving their speeches, give them your undivided attention. Don’t look at your laptop, phone, textbook, or even your hands – people notice those things! Furthermore, try keeping a positive, happy expression on your face so that when they are doing their best to scan the room they see your expression and feel a bit of comfort. I had a classmate tell me that she loved looking over at me because I always looked as though I was happy to hear what she had to say. In turn, your peers are more likely to give you their attention as well! It’s always nice to look at your audience and know they not only find your topic interesting, but also are happy to listen.
- Use your talents to entertain and your knowledge to choose topics. I know some of you may think that you have no talents that apply to speech class but you would be surprised. For example, I am a bit sarcastic so I used that in a few of my speeches. It got the attention of my classmates, but also helped me relax. When it came to choosing my topics I found topics I knew something about and loved. During the intercession, our speech department held a Black History Month contest and I chose to talk about Phillis Wheatley, the first published African American and a former slave. It was my best speech because I already had a love for literature and especially women authors. I went into the topic already knowing quite a bit so my confidence level was higher than with other speeches.
- Practice, practice, practice! Seriously, practice. Don’t cram your speech writing into one session and then only read over it once. Instead, give yourself enough time to write the speech and then rehearse it with a stopwatch. During my class I rehearsed my speech at least 7-10 times: in front of my friends, my kids, and even their stuffed animals. When it came time to give my speech I was less dependent on my notecards and I looked like I wasn’t nervous (even though I was).
Speaking in public might be a major fear for most of us, but it doesn’t have to feel like pulling teeth and acing the class is possible! Just do your best and soon enough you will walk out of speech class much more equipped for those other class presentations! Good luck!