Syllabus week: an effortless dry run for your upcoming college schedule.
Meet your professors, learn whether that $300 textbook is required (they rarely are), and mentally prepare for the semester ahead.
But it’s also when the 16-week anxiety cycle officially enters full-swing.
Because whether you’re an education, science, or business major, you can’t escape without surviving at least one nerve-wracking presentation per semester.
Stomach butterflies, a racing heartbeat, or a shaky voice make this simple class requirement all the more harrowing. But public speaking doesn’t have to be your mortal enemy. The answer lies in the planning. Here’s our seven-tip "holy grail" to prepare for your next public speaking presentation seamlessly.
Watch Famous Speeches
It’s not only what you say, but how you say it! Anyone can pen a 20-minute speech on their favorite subject.
But what about standing in front of a packed lecture hall? And encouraging the audience to laugh or raise their hands — without putting them to sleep? That’s a far greater challenge!
Discover your voice and what makes a presentation by mimicking the world’s most outstanding public speakers. Watch clips of master linguists like Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., and John F. Kennedy to help you learn the ropes.
Pay close attention to their tones, inflections, hand gestures, and facial expressions.
Meet New People (& Build Your Confidence)
Public speaking isn’t only standing in front of a room and reciting a pre-written speech. It’s making direct eye contact, getting the point across (without crater-sized holes), and not tripping over your words.
Now, add “extrovert” to your resume!
Meeting new people can help you build your confidence around strangers and pull off an unforgettably engaging speech. Take some time out of your busy schedule to join a club, attend the gym, go to the grocery store, or walk the campus loop.
Wherever your travels lead you, strike up tit-for-tat conversations with strangers. Talk about anything and everything under the sun.
Study the Requirements
The real nightmare come speech day is walking in and realizing you’re completely and utterly unprepared. Maybe you crafted a slideshow, but the lecture hall doesn’t have a projector. Or you didn’t know that your professor required a paper as well.
The second you receive the presentation assignment, look at the instructions list and study the rubric (the only real way to know what an “A” looks like).
- What you’ll have access to on the big day (podium, projector, speakers)
- If there’s a time minimum or limit
- Any additional materials required (print-outs, quizzes)
- Whether there’s a preferred dress code
- If your speech or PowerPoint must contain XYZ
If the requirements are unclear, email your professor to get clarification. And, if you begin preparing early enough, schedule an appointment during your professor’s office hours. Share your progress thus far and ask for feedback to work out the kinks.
Learn to Freestyle
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
But in public speaking, that doesn’t mean memorizing a 15-page speech word for word. It’s mastering the content so well that you can talk about it confidently without looking down at a notecard. Or being totally derailed by a classmate’s question.
Become an “expert” on the topic by:
- Watching YouTube clips or documentaries
- Reading relevant news stories
- Talking to current or past industry experts
Adding a few “zingers” or dramatic pauses into your speech is a good strategy. But being able to go off-script, answer questions, and tell stories is far better. Plus, it transforms a typically rigid speech into an engaging, one-sided conversation.
Plan a Killer Speech
You might trail off-script or add some informational tidbits along the way. But for the most part, your speech should be well-planned-out and not jumbled together.
Craft a killer, A+, confidence-boosting speech by:
- Adding in rhetorical questions (so, what happened after that? Well … )
- Invoking emotion from the audience (smile, laugh, gasp, sigh)
- Turning a bland topic into an interesting subject
- Planning more than you need (nerves make us speak faster)
- Starting with a hard-hitting fact or heartbreaking story (capture attention)
- Infusing videos, sound clips, photos, and graphs
That speech may not always roll off your tongue precisely as you intended. However, it’s better than standing in front of 30 of your peers stammering and making things up on the fly!
Find the Right Outfit
While there is no official dress code for giving college speeches, take your cues from the department, audience, and assignment (is it 10% or 40% of your final grade?).
Generally, you should dress a little more formally than you usually would. If you typically sport sweatpants and a T-shirt, khakis and a button-down are a better choice. If it’s a 30-minute capstone in front of experts, aim for business casual.
Put together an outfit days before, try on the clothes to make sure everything fits (the college 15 is 100% real), and hang it up to prevent wrinkles.
A blazer or pencil skirt won’t guarantee an A. But looking sharp with a professional aura can replace those nerves with confidence.
You’ve officially written that A-worthy speech down on looseleaf. The accompanying slideshow has smooth transitions, engaging photos, and to-the-point bulleted lists. And you’ve even scrawled an index card “cheat sheet” to tuck into your pocket.
Now, it’s time to put the old “practice makes perfect” slogan to good use. Practice reciting this speech whenever and wherever you can, even if that’s …
- While driving to campus (caution: keep your eyes on the road)
- In front of the bathroom mirror
- To your roommate (or a willing pet!)
- When hiking or walking on the treadmill
The more visual and auditory distractions while you practice, the better! That way, a classmate shuffling out the door or rifling through their notebook won’t steal your attention and flow.
Tip: If there’s a time requirement, record yourself reciting the speech to gauge how long it is. Then you’ll know what you can add or cut, and check for long pauses (or lack thereof).
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Once you master the behind-the-scenes prep work, you’re ready to take on the big day!
Now, for the finishing touches the morning of:
- Iron and steam your outfit (there’s no sense in dressing to the nines if you’re a wrinkled mess!)
- Meditate for 15 minutes or take deep breaths
- Create back-up tech methods (i.e., a Google Drive file and USB)
- Eat a healthy breakfast and drink water
- Leave the house (or your dorm room) earlier than usual
Walk in with confidence and silenced nerves. Walk out with yet another A+ on your transcript.
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Arch Troy to help them with their online marketing.
Image Credit: deliver public speaking by pexels.com
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