Reader Question: Surviving Speech Class

Speech class is one of the most dreaded college courses for a lot of people. They are afraid of what the class will entail and of standing up in front of classmates they have only known for part of a semester and speaking. Talking to your classmates and talking at your classmates can be very different. It’s hard for people to relax and have good speeches because of that fact. Here are my tips for getting through speech class without wanting to cause serious bodily harm.
 

Research, research, research

When you research you gain confidence about a subject. The more confident you are about a subject the less likely you will stammer, get caught up in speaking, and get nervous.

Know your assignment

Don’t try to persuade someone when you were supposed to inform them or vice versa. Your professor will spend a lot of time telling you exactly what each speech is about so make sure you are taking good notes about the difference between speech types. There is a time limit on the speeches and if you weren’t supposed to persuade that can cut minutes off your speech time. If your speech seems too big for the time limit consider the aspects of your speech and what they really accomplish.

Your teachers don’t expect you to be President Obama’s speech writer

The people who write presidential speeches have doctorates in speeches. They have studied the art of speeches for years and years and have perfected their craft. You have been in speech class for a couple of weeks. The teachers know your speeches won’t rival a presidential debate, and that’s okay.

Use visual aids

Visual aids are lifesavers. They make your presentation ten times more snazzy and pull some of the attention away from you. Don’t overuse your visual aids though. Keep them as more of a backdrop and periodically point to them, do not read from them. The same goes with your notes. People can tell when you are just blatantly reading from your notes and it makes the whole presentation feel off.

Practice makes perfect

Get your speech done in a timely manner, note cards and all, so that you can properly practice for each speech. Most speeches will be extemporaneous. This means you will have  notes, but you will also try to look at them as little as possible and maintain a lot of eye contact with your audience while you are speaking. It’s practiced, but when you speak it, it needs a certain amount of flow and it needs to feel conversational. Practicing your speech will help you smooth out any bumps in your presentation that way you can change around words to help them flow better.

Here are three things to remember:

  1. Everyone is nervous: I saw even the most confident seeming students go in front of the class and get tripped up. Everyone has those butterflies in their stomach.
  2. Be attentive: This doesn’t mean staring awkwardly at the presenter while they are speaking. It means giving visual cues to the person speaking such as a head nod or a smile. This lets the speaker know that you are enjoying their speech and makes them less nervous.
  3. Stop any nervous movements: Whether you are on stage or in the audience nervous movements make people more nervous. If you can avoid it no pen clicking/tapping, awkward shifting between your feet, excessive shuffling of papers, et cetera. The less nervous the room is the better.

Thanks to xochrissymariexo for this wonderful question about surviving speech classes. I hope this was very helpful to all my readers!

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