Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Public Speaking

One of the classes I teach at university is public speaking, and I will do so again this coming semester. It is one of my favourite classes to teach. For one, there are much fewer assignments to grade than the typical literature classes I teach, and grading essays does not make my innards bubble with excitement. Another and probably better reason for enjoying this class is because I can more dramatically see the improvement in the students. I can compare the presentations the students give at the beginning of the semester, with the speeches they give at the end of the semester, and see how they have applied the skills, overcome their extreme nervousness, and ordered their presentations in engaging and coherent ways. Just providing them with some simple ways to organize their speeches in a sensible way, dramatically improves their communication.

If you want some advice on public speaking, my main point would be do not to read. You can skim your notes, or read quotations or statistics. Such "reading" is okay. But keep in mind, it is as Ze Frank in the YouTube video below says: "It's public speaking, not public reading." There are few things more sleep-inducingly boring than having to sit there, while somebody reads to you. There is a reason we read to children at bedtime. So if you are not to read, should you memorise your whole speech word for word? No. Instead, thoroughly familiarize yourself with the topic, then memorise the main points and sub-points, and then using your outline speak freely about the topic, following your outline. Doing so you will cover all the things you wish to cover, while having a "conversation" with your audience. When you are not reading, you can make more eye contact instead of hiding behind your notes; this will immediately build better rapport with the audience. You will look more confident and knowledgeable about the topic.

But now, here is Ze Frank with more advice:


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