Public Speaking Tips for High School and College Students
In some cases, it can be hard to avoid speaking in public. Whether you’re a high school student presenting at a science fair, or a college student taking a debate course to fulfill a credit requirement, chances are you’ll have to speak in public at some point. Speaking in front of others can be intimidating, but mastering this skill can go a long way toward helping you excel in high school and college.
If you dread class presentations or find it difficult to speak up during group discussions, you are not alone. In fact, according to the National Social Anxiety Center, as much as 73% of the population has some degree of glossophobia, or a fear of public speaking. While it may be intimidating, learning how to effectively present ideas to groups of people is an important skill to cultivate, particularly as students prepare for college.
Many advanced high school and university courses include some kind of public speaking component, whether it is a formal presentation, an oral exam, or simply leading a class discussion. Many extracurricular activities might also have a public speaking aspect, like competitions where students must present their projects or other activities like debate club or Model UN. Although some lingering anxiety might be inevitable, there are several steps students can take to boost their confidence and ensure that their next speaking engagement goes as smoothly as possible.
Know Your Topic Inside and Out
Thorough research will help even the most reserved students feel confident on presentation day. Go the extra mile and truly become an expert in the topic you are discussing by utilizing a variety of sources in order to establish a nuanced perspective that is built on multiple opinions. Incorporate research and statistics whenever possible to build your credibility as a speaker and also emphasize your expertise on the subject.
Keep it Structured
The best speeches and presentations center around one main idea, which all discussion points relate back to. Reflect on the purpose of your discussion and the point you wish to convey and review every paragraph of your speech to ensure it is relevant to the overarching topic. Eliminate any extraneous points and strive to create a streamlined, cohesive argument that makes your central idea clear to your audience.
Do Several Trial Runs
Practicing your discussion beforehand will help you feel confident and ease public speaking jitters. Rehearse your speech in front of a mirror and focus not only on what you are saying, but how you are saying it because tone and inflection really matter. Many students who dislike public speaking tend to rush through their discussion points, so it may be beneficial to think about speaking slowly and clearly to counteract this tendency. Look at yourself in the mirror to practice making eye contact with an audience.
Wear Something Your Feel Good In
Pick out your outfit at least one day in advance to make sure you have clothes that are appropriate for the occasion and that you feel confident in. The more preparation you can do before your speaking engagement, the calmer and more prepared you will feel on the big day. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a teacher, professor, or administrator if the dress code is unclear. Get all the information you need in order to feel confident about the opportunity.
Make the Most of Your Morning
The morning of a presentation or speaking engagement is not the time to sleep in. Give yourself enough time to review your notes, get dressed leisurely, eat a balanced breakfast, and arrive early to get familiar with the space. If possible run through your presentation one more time in the space you will be speaking in for extra practice.
Following these tips will help you feel confident during your presentation, which is key to becoming a strong public speaker and excelling in your defined interests. If you are struggling with how to conquer your fear of public speaking or giving presentations in class, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Discuss learning opportunities with your teachers or look into one-on-one academic advising.
Don’t let fear of public speaking or presentations keep you from doing the things you enjoy! At IvyWise our team of expert counselors can help you identify activities that align with your interests and provide guidance on how to best prepare for any presentations, speaking engagements, or interviews. Contact us today for more information on our college counseling services.