Public Speaking Tips for High School and College Students (Part 1)

In some cases, it can be hard to avoid speaking in public. Whether you’re a high school student presenting at a science fair, or a college student taking a debate course to fulfill a credit requirement, chances are you’ll have to speak in public at some point. Speaking in front of others can be intimidating, but mastering this skill can go a long way toward helping you excel in high school and college.

If you dread class presentations or find it difficult to speak up during group discussions, you are not alone. In fact, according to the National Social Anxiety Center, as much as 73% of the population has some degree of glossophobia, or a fear of public speaking. While it may be intimidating, learning how to effectively present ideas to groups of people is an important skill to cultivate, particularly as students prepare for college.

Many advanced high school and university courses include some kind of public speaking component, whether it is a formal presentation, an oral exam, or simply leading a class discussion. Many extracurricular activities might also have a public speaking aspect, like competitions where students must present their projects or other activities like debate club or Model UN. Although some lingering anxiety might be inevitable, there are several steps students can take to boost their confidence and ensure that their next speaking engagement goes as smoothly as possible.

Know Your Topic Inside and Out

Thorough research will help even the most reserved students feel confident on presentation day. Go the extra mile and truly become an expert in the topic you are discussing by utilizing a variety of sources in order to establish a nuanced perspective that is built on multiple opinions. Incorporate research and statistics whenever possible to build your credibility as a speaker and also emphasize your expertise on the subject.

Keep it Structured

The best speeches and presentations center around one main idea, which all discussion points relate back to. Reflect on the purpose of your discussion and the point you wish to convey and review every paragraph of your speech to ensure it is relevant to the overarching topic. Eliminate any extraneous points and strive to create a streamlined, cohesive argument that makes your central idea clear to your audience.

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