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Speaking in Class

Speaking in Class

Author: Nikki Hansen

To discuss the fears surrounding public speaking (particularly speaking in class). To provide tips to help alleviate the fear of speaking in front of classmates.

This packet is designed to help students struggling with the fear of speaking in front of their classmates. This packet provides tips on how to alleviate that anxiety.

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For some students, the idea of getting up in front of our peers and class-mates is nerve wracking and scary. The idea of stuttering or stammering, sweating or mispronouncing a word makes you anxious. Many students have this fear! The fear of speaking in public is one of the worst, and most common fears, people have. 

So, you might be wondering:

1. "Why am I so afraid of getting in front of my class?"

2. "How can I get over it?"

3. "How can I speak with confidence?"

First: What are you afraid of?

One reason students get so nervous speaking in front of their peers is that they have a fear of being judged by, or looking silly in front of them. Another fear is that you may forget everything you prepared, begin to blush, sweat, etc. The idea of being humiliated or embarrassed is what causes your fear. 

Tips to overcome your fear(s):

Know your subject matter: If you are going to present something or speak in front of your peers, be sure to know the subject matter well. Chances are you will be presenting or talking about something you have been studying in class.  This will give you the base you need to answer the questions of students who don't grasp the concept as well as you do, or have additional questions about your topic. However, just because you may have studied your topic in class doesn't mean you don't have to do additional work! You should always prepare as though there is going to be an expert in the class. Knowing the topic and best you can will help give you confidence.

Know what you are going to say: You don't need to memorize a speech word-for-word, but you shouldn't get up in front of the class and "wing" your presentation.  Write out what you want to say, and practice reading it out loud a few times. Bring your notes up with you when you present, or a note-card with the points you want to make. The more you practice what you want to say, the more confident you will feel on the day of your presentation. 

Stay calm in front of your audience: Try to remember that these are you peers.  They will all have to give presentations too. Think about your teacher. S/he doesn't get nervous in front of the class, so there is no need for you to get nervous either. Think of yourself in the teacher role - you are sharing valuable information with the class! Practice is extremely important. The more you give a talk, the more automatic it becomes, the more meat it can have and the more confidence you have in your abilities to give the speech.

Practice alone, Practice in front of small groups or friends. Practice.

Speak Confidently in Class

  • Practice, Practice Practice! Every chance you get - whether the group is large or small - seize the opportunity to talk to or in front of an audience!

  • Make certain to speak up with volume (not scream) and PROJECT. Projecting is not yelling, it is using your diaphragm (stomach muscles) to push the air out.

  • Watch your pace and pause if you feel you are rushing; no one will mind if you take a breath! A few seconds breaking to take stock is not noticed by anyone except you.

  • You think - therefor talk - faster than other people can comprehend. When speaking, talk at a rate that seems unbearably slow. It will come out just right!

  • Make sure you pause in between sentences for greatest effect and to ensure that the talk is sinking into the listener's minds.

  • Enunciate; clear speech helps those listening as they don't have to decipher the words but can concentrate on the content.

  • Use vocal variation; it can be tedious and boring to listen to a speaker whose voice sounds monotone and flat the entire speech.

  • Be interesting to look at! An animated speaker holds a crowds attention. Use gestures and facial expressions to illustrate your points. Walk across the stage a little. Make sure to always look your best, which really helps your confidence and others confidence in you.

  • Hold your hands in front of you at waist level. This enables you to make subtle hand gestures to illustrate your point while not causing too much distraction to the audience.

  • Introduce your topics as questions which you then answer to keep the audience interested.

  • The uses of "uh", "um", "and yeah", and other similar phrases branch out from the need to fill thesilence.Silence helps you appear like you are thinking,though sometimes you are actually nervous. Learn to use silences to your advantage, and not to be terrified of them. Pausing to take a breath, recollect your thoughts, and make a greater impact on your audience is perfectly acceptable and encouraged. It is difficult to remember NOT to say "uhhhh ..." but if you try to adopt a mindset that is not against a moment of silence, it will be easier. Practicing will make it second nature, and you will never feel the need to say "um" again.

  • Get up as close to the audience as you can, this shows confidence.

  • Listen and watch great public speakers and try to analyze what is it that makes them successful.

  • Don't be embarrassed by your faults. Demosthenes was a prominent orator in ancient Athens even though he suffered from speech impediments. A good public speaker can overcome these difficulties.

Additional Tips:

  • Don't Hurry

  • Don't Mumble

  • Don't pace around the room

  • Don't hide behind the podium

  • Don't hide your hands in your pockets

  • Avoid pointing your finger at the audience

  • Don't make stuff up

  • Don't pause for too long

  • Try not to repeat yourself

  • Don't look down

  • Don't chew gum

  • Relax

  • Try to keep the presentation fun!