Secrets of the Quill
By: Freya Thodesen-Kasparian
I have been assigned a speech in my class, but don’t know where to begin! Public speaking terrifies me, and I’m afraid that no matter what I do, I’ll mess everything up. Help!
Public speaking is a fear that many people have, but one that can be overcome nonetheless! With a few pointers, you will be on your way to an A+ presentation that you can be proud of.
A well delivered and interesting presentation begins with topic choice. Perhaps you have been assigned a topic directly, but maybe you have a choice of topics or, in certain cases, can choose any topic you want. Pick something that interests and excites you – what are you inherently motivated to learn more about? If you choose to talk about something that you’re truly intrigued by, the act of compiling the presentation will lack the usual monotony we are all accustomed to.
Once you have begun preliminary research, it is important to organize it into a sequence that makes sense. A good method of accomplishing this is through the use of visual mediums of communication, such as PowerPoint, videos or images. This can add an element of interest to your speech and keep the audience engaged in the presentation. By using relevant visual prompts and slides, understanding is reinforced and discussion facilitated.
The keys to giving a good presentation are confidence and preparation, plain and simple. While this may seem daunting, there are many ways to reinforce confidence in preparation for a presentation. One of these is to know the information really well – be able to speak about it without notecards or looking at PowerPoint slides. When you have a command of the information and concepts in your presentation, it will be much less nerve-wracking to present in front of class. Through practice and advanced planning, not only will you know the information better, but you will get a sense of the timing and pace of your speech. Do you have to include more information or exclude some? Will you go way over the time limit, or is the timing just right? By constructing the speech one step at a time, the process will be significantly less overwhelming.
As far as presentation dress is concerned, a modest and sophisticated look is a good goal to aim for, ladies. For the gentlemen, a nice shirt and pants (that aren’t jeans) will serve perfectly! Leave the pajama pants and baseball caps at home; this is a professional assignment! What about in the real world, when you have to stand up and prove a point, make a sale, show off a portfolio, or explain a report? No one wants to look like they just stumbled out of a club at three in the morning when they’re about to stand up in front of their fellow classmates and instructor.
On presentation day, there a few things to remember before you show your peers and professor the hard work you’ve done. Speak clearly, enunciate and articulate your words, and try not to rush. Don’t let your nerves get the best of you! Be cool, calm, and collected. Make eye contact with your classmates – don’t just read off of PowerPoint slides or a hastily written manuscript of your speech. Finally, remember that effort (or the lack thereof) is extremely apparent when class presentations are concerned. If you make the conscious decision to take them seriously, your chances of receiving a bright, shiny 4.0 will skyrocket!