“Mend your speech a little, lest it should mar your fortunes.” William Shakespeare, King Lear.
Whether it’s speaking up in class, delivering a speech for a project, or engaging in a friendly debate with friends or family, public speaking can be nerve wracking! Even if it isn't something you like doing, sometimes it can't be avoided and it is a skill that can greatly benefit you in life and especially your career.
If you find yourself asking, “Why am I so bad at public speaking?” the good news is you aren’t alone in your worries – nearly 75% of people claim to be affected by the fear of public speaking. You don’t need to be so worried about public speaking; like anything else it is a skill you can learn and get better at with enough preparation, practice and positiveness.
Here are the three P’s of public speaking:
Properly preparing for public speaking encompasses a lot of different areas. In fact, Mark Twain reminds us “it usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” Make sure you write your speech as far in advance as possible. Give yourself time. Sleep on it once it’s complete so you can read it with fresh eyes the next day. Also, enlisting a friend, classmate, or teacher to review the speech can be helpful. Getting feedback ahead of time can help you feel even more confident about what you plan to say.
If you are going to be debating or speaking more impromptu, then know the material inside and out! Your preparation should be planning a response for possible questions and knowing any necessary facts.
Another part of preparation is physically getting ready. If you wake up overtired or late and don’t have enough time to get ready or eat the day of your speech, you can expect to appear frazzled or unorganized. Make sure you prepare what you will wear so you can feel confident in both your physical and oral presentation.
Pro Tip: If you plan on using any media during your speech, such as a PowerPoint or video examples, make sure you show up at least 15 minutes early and everything is working. Complaining that the internet is down during a presentation is no one’s fault but your own.
Once you have written your speech or planned your talking points the best thing to do next is to practice, practice, practice. This does not just mean reading it and thinking about what you will say. You have to practice your speech out loud. Even better than just reading, you should videotape yourself! Watching a video of yourself can show you so much about how you present yourself and help you critique things like mumbling, saying “um,” or speaking too quietly or quickly.
If you aren’t preparing for a big speech and just want to get better at speaking in front of a group of people, jot down notes before you start speaking so you can quickly reference.
Pro Tip: Time your speech while you are practicing. You should know for how long you will be speaking. You don’t want to feel like you are boring your listeners halfway through your speech because you didn’t realize you would be talking for 20 minutes! Shorter is often better.
Staying positive about your skills and upcoming speeches can have a big impact on the outcome. Negative self-talk like, “I’m terrible at public speaking” or “I am so nervous about this presentation” leading up to your speech or debate can really impact how it goes. If you have prepared and practiced thoroughly, then you should know you can produce a quality speech. Staying positive is one of the best ways to exude confidence during your speech.
Pro Tip: Watch other speeches, whether famous speeches throughout history or even TV shows like SharkTank. Watching how other people present themselves with confidence and poise can help you figure out how you want to present yourself.
About the Public Speaking Summer Class at JKCP
The best way to get better at public speaking is to keep doing it. A summer class as JKCP’s Enrichment program is the perfect opportunity to get in some more practice. Small class sizes with other students who are also trying to squelch their nerves and gain some new skills – it’s the perfect, non-threatening atmosphere to practice.
The aim of this course is to help you with the planning and organization of your speeches. You’ll learn to read your audience, think on your feet and use creativity to persuade. Beginning with basic oratory skills like pacing, articulation and body language, we will help you deliver speeches clearly, concisely and persuasively. You can prepare a speech interesting to you, anchor the JKCP news or practice your debating skills with the residential director. Being a strong public speaker is important; it isn’t up for debate.
You can take the Enrichment class Monday through Friday from 1:30 to 4:00 and choose another class for your morning class.
If you want additional courses to practice your public speaking at JKCP, you could also try the Business course in the morning. In this class you will work in groups to develop a business plan and give a SharkTank style presentation at the end of the week. This fun and informative class adds a little competition to keep you motivated.