Get Ready for Public Speaking in College

Speaking in front of people can be nerve-wracking. You can get the shakes, get sweaty, feel a tingling sensation, get sick to your stomach—or you can get up, be calm, and deliver a knockout speech that will impress your professor and your classmates. What’s the best way to go from the first to the second? In fact, the only the to get there? Practice.

Be Prepared

No matter what you’re studying, you’ll be up in front of your class at some point. Maybe you’ll be giving a speech on the works of Percy Shelley. Or you’ll be discussing how Karl Marx would look at today’s economic recession. Or you could be helping the class work through a math problem.

Many schools even require that you take a public speaking or workplace communication class. You may think it’s unnecessary, but to be successful in the professional world, you need to be able to communicate effectively. And while that doesn’t always mean getting up in front of a room of people to tell them about something, it very often does.

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So get used to the idea and start thinking about preparing yourself to do it well.

College/High School Speech

You probably gave speeches in front of a high school class or two, and doing it in college—unlike most other things—isn’t all that different. You’ll probably be up there a little longer, and you’ll be expected to discuss something more complicated or involved, but the idea is the same.

Remember that you’ve done this before, both in class and out of it. Everyone has addressed their whole family, their group of friends, or their coworkers, and talking to a class is no different. You may think it is, but it’s really not.

Take Action: Practice and Learn

There are hundreds of sites dedicated to public speaking, as well as whole programs of study that focus on it, so you can look that up for yourself.

Here is one of the most effective method of improving public speaking very quickly: talk to the group like you’re talking to one person. This may seem obvious, or not very helpful, but keep it in the back of your mind while you’re preparing and while you’re presenting, and you’ll start to see how useful it is. It’ll help you stay relaxed, and will keep your speech natural.

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Be conversational—don’t say “um” or “like” a lot, but feel free to be yourself. Take a phrase like this, for example:

“When I started reading Wilde’s essays, I was thinking, ‘This guy’s crazy.’ But the more I read, the more I realized that he might be on to something. That he might not be as far out there as I thought.”

Pretty conversational, and not very formal, but formal enough for a classroom. Practice giving your speech to just one person before you give it to the class. Practice it a bunch, be willing to get up in front of your class, and you’ll be a public speaking sensation in no time.

Check out this great speech by Nick Selby: