Tips for Public Speaking

This booklet is designed to help you prepare for your speaking assignments in Humanities. It contains background material concerning public speaking, a description of the speaking situation, and some help for you when you put your own speech together. Each of you will be expected to read and use this material when you do your assignment.

• Misconceptions about Speaking in Public:
Before we begin discussing the speech format, let us clear up some common misconceptions about public speaking.

1. “You just can’t learn how to speak well.”

Not true we know from research that both study and repetition will help people become better speakers. You can learn how to put a speech together more effectively and what to consider when preparing your presentation. And you can learn simply by doing — the more people speak in public, the better public speakers they can become.

2. “How you say something isn’t important. It’s what you say that’s important.”

Not true. How many times have you heard a boring presentation that almost put you to sleep, and felt that if you’d only been inspired by the speaker’s style, you would have learned some interesting things?

3.  ‘What you say isn’t important. It’s how you say it.”

Not true. How many times have you heard a politician, speaking in a beautiful voice with beautiful technique, say absolutely nothing? Public speaking is most effective when it has both something important to say and when the speaker says those things well.

4. “Public speaking is just like acting.”

Not true. Today, we teach public speaking that is “conversational” in tone. We ask that you use your normal speaking voice. We no longer teach the style of public speaking that would ask you to have elaborate gestures or extreme emotional vocal qualities. Simply try to be “yourself” when you deliver the speech, loud enough for ail to clearly hear you and varied enough vocally to keep everyone s attention.

5. “I’m frightened of this more than most of the other students in class.”

Most of all NOT TRUE. This is perhaps the most important misconception about public speaking. Here is a common observation heard from teachers of public speaking:


So it is natural that you feel nervous about speaking. Everyone, to some degree or another, feels that way. And the less you have spoken in public, the more nervous you probably feel. But don’t forget that most of your classmates feel the same way. The only “cure” for nervousness in public speaking is ... well, getting up and speaking!

There are a number of physical symptoms of nervousness you may experience. You may breathe harder, your blood pressure may go up, more blood sugar may be released, your body can tense up . . . these are just some of the things people may experience. But viewed another way, these are also symptoms most athletes feel before they go out to compete! And just like an athlete, you need to make your nerves work for you, not against you.

It order to do that, here are a few things to remember. Recall that the audience is not out there criticizing your every move, waiting for your every mistake. People are hoping you do well. And if you make a mistake — well, we all make mistakes. It is normal, and one mistake will not ruin your chances for a good grade. Just gather your thoughts and continue, trying not to dwell on what went wrong. Everyone, even the best speaker, makes mistakes.

Remember to plan. The more you plan, the less are your chances of making error after error and the more confident you can be. Also, remember you will get less nervous the more often you speak in public. Finally, keep in mind that if you weren’t nervous at all, it would be very irregular. Some nervousness may even help you “get up” for the speech, giving you some adrenaline to help you win your audience over.
So even though you are nervous, “go for it.”