Mastering Public Speaking

Clammy palms. Staggered breathing. Shaky voice. Anxiety up the roof. Do these symptoms ring a bell? Ever had to stand up in front of a class and deliver a nerve-racking speech and/or class presentation? I am assuming at this point everyone, of course, has. The mix of emotions that surges in the moments preceding class presentations can be great cause of alarm for college students. For some reason, standing up in front of a group of people tends to mount pressure on the vast majority. Maybe it’s the way everyone’s eyes seem to be solely on you, watching your every move, seemingly judging you. Perhaps it is simply fear of forgetting important information and coming across as unprepared. Whatever the reason, public speaking is usually listed high among college student fears.

With that said, I’d like to tell you all about a personal experience I encountered in my public speaking class last semester. As a communications major, I had to take fundamentals of speech as a requirement. I vividly recall registering and even feeling my hand tremble gently as I registered. The mere thought of facing a group of strangers and speaking in front of them routinely put my nerves on edge. However, I had the entire summer vacation to put my anticipated nerves at bay and relaxed within those months. My time of relaxation was short-lived, however. Before I realized it, the Fall 2011 term had already begun and I found myself in the small classroom where my speeches would take place before an unfamiliar group of individuals.

I won’t lie, I went into the class with a negative outlook right from the beginning. I pictured all sorts of scenarios in my head, all of which included me stumbling through speeches and making a complete fool of myself. I know I have mostly listed the cons of public speaking so far. However, it really isn’t as bad as it seems. As the semester progressed, I realized standing in front of the class to give speeches wasn’t as arduous a task as I made it out to be in the beginning. What you’ll often find is that most people are really quite forgiving and pleasant audiences. Hey, chances are the people in your class are feeling the same EXACT emotions as you are. They are just as intimidated and afraid of messing up as you are.

There are a few factors that helped me run through my public speaking class smoothly. First of all, I had a great professor, Traci Mathies. Her warm and friendly character helped me feel confident and she always provided great examples and techniques to lessen nerves. My classmates were also friendly and by the end of the term it felt like a little family. Now you are all probably expecting some tips on how to adequately prepare for a speech and survive fundamentals of speech.

  • Make sure to read the textbook. Great samples and techniques are detailed (And exams are based off the book, so read!)
  • Pay attention in class and ask any questions you might have regarding assignments and speeches
  • Allow enough time to prepare for speeches
  • Prepare detailed outlines and study them often before speaking days
  • Wear semi-casual attire on speaking days
  • Make note cards to guide you through your speech. (Make sure to not read off of them verbatim)
  • Prepare a short and concise Powerpoint. (Again, don’t read word-for-word)
  • Get a good night’s sleep and eat an adequate breakfast to feel fueled and refreshed
  • Practice, practice, practice!
  • Deliver your speech with confidence, limiting hand gestures, and make sure to have a pleasant disposition

I know public speaking can be terrifying, but it is up to YOU to master it. Don’t be intimidated by others. Remember, they’re just people! As long as you take time to prepare and keep an open mind, you should have no trouble at all in public speaking!

By Jomaris Rodriguez

One thought on “Mastering Public Speaking

  1. As a UNF alum and a practicing divorce attorney here in Jacksonville, I’d agree with point number 9 (practice, practice, practice).

    There are very few ‘born’ public speakers. Like most else in life, preparation and practice go a long way. Put in the work while you can. It’s certainly a useful (if not required) tool that helps determine success in any field.

    Sharon B. Johnson

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