In many courses, students must give a speech or presentation. Some students may feel quite confident in their ability to speak in front of an audience; they may even relish the opportunity. However, many others may grow nervous about the prospect of giving a speech in front of their instructors and their peers. These students may benefit from guidance that will help them speak with self-assurance, poise, and clarity.
In The Challenge of Effective Speaking in a Digital Age, Sixteenth Edition, Rudolph F. Verderber, Deanna D. Sellnow, and Kathleen S. Verderber share tips and techniques that can help students speak with confidence. We’ve summarized eight of them below. Feel free to share these tips with students who are getting ready to give a speech or presentation.
Techniques that can help you speak with confidence
1. Be prepared. Don’t procrastinate; start planning your speech as soon as you’ve received the assignment or invitation. A week to ten days should be ample time to gather and organize your thoughts and practice your speech.
2. Incorporate visual aids into your speech. Photos, charts, or models help you illustrate your point—and they also give your audience an additional item on which to focus.
3. Don’t just read through your speech… practice it aloud. You’ll familiarize yourself with what you have to say and how you’re going to say it. As you listen to yourself, you’ll also become aware of the areas that need smoother transitions, longer (or shorter) explanations, or clearer examples. Once you’ve practiced on your own three or four times, find a trustworthy group of friends or family members who will listen to your speech and provide you with feedback. Finally, if you’re able to practice where you’ll be giving the speech, this will also help you become more familiar with—and thus more confident about—the situation in which you’ll be speaking.
4. Wear an outfit that helps you feel confident. Don’t be afraid to dress up a bit; by so doing, your audience will see that you respect the topic and the occasion.
5. If the option is available to you, speak when you’ll feel the most comfortable or confident. Do you feel most confident when you’re the first to stand up and speak? Or, would you feel more comfortable if you had the opportunity to see and hear others’ speeches before you went to the front yourself? Take these feelings into consideration when you sign up for a time slot.
6. Maintain a positive and confident attitude. Tell yourself: “I can do this!” Keep in mind all the preparation you’ve put into your speech, and picture a positive outcome.
7. As you walk to the front of the room to give your speech, carry yourself in a confident manner. Stand up straight, gaze at your audience, take a deep breath, and smile! Now, you’re ready to start speaking.
8. Concentrate on your message and your audience, rather than your degree of nervousness. If you spend too much time worried about your nerves, you’ll become more nervous—whereas, if you focus on your topic and your listeners, you’ll be better able to make a connection with them and get them engaged in your speech. (Verderber et al., 28-29)
Reference: Verderber, Rudolph F., Deanna D. Sellnow, and Kathleen S. Verderber. 2015. The Challenge of Effective Speaking in a Digital Age, 16th ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
What techniques do you use to speak with confidence? Share them in the comments below.