After many years of working in universities, business schools and art schools, and seeing hundreds of presentations from students, I have compiled my top public speaking tips for students.
Public speaking as a student requires a different set of presentation skills to normal, as you may not yet be a confident speaker. Having the pressures of your professor and other classmates watching your speech can really make things difficult. On top of that, sometimes your exam grade can come down to how well you present your work.
So, here are your top tips for students when public speaking.
Student public speaking tip #1
Follow the rules and requirements.
Always check with your teacher that you know, and follow, all of the rules and requirements of your public speaking task. Often, in education your teacher or examiner will set series of strict restrictions and limits on you, and you will loose points if you flaunt any of the rules.
- How long should my public speaking be?
- How should I order my talk?
- What core topics should I cover when public speaking?
- What key questions should I answer when public speaking?
- What data should I show when public speaking?
- What are the academic requirements of my talk?
- What are the assessment criteria of my talk?
I have been surprised over the years by a number of students who give great presentations, but they miss key requirements and then lose grades. Students, use this checklist before public speaking to make sure you don’t miss out on grades.
Student public speaking tip #2
Learn Presenter View
As a student you should practice your public speaking skills alongside your powerpoint presentation with the equipment you have in your classroom. Make sure that you have the correct connections to hook up your laptop to your classrooms system. Some systems use VGA cables, some use HDMI. Do you have that on your laptop? What about sound and video playback?
Always test your cables and setup way in advance of your presentation.
When using Powerpoint, learn how to use Presenter View. Presenter View mode is great for students when public speaking. It allows you to show your powerpoint on your classrooms main projector, but it also allows your laptop screen to show you a timer, the slide thats coming up next, and most importantly, your notes. This can be a lifesaver for the nervous student speaker.
Student public speaking tip #3
Prep your classmates with questions.
There is nothing worse than getting to the end of a great public speech and asking “Are there any questions?” and the whole class goes silent.
Make sure, before your talk, to approach a fellow student and suggest to them privately a question they could ask. Since you will be prepared for the question, it will help remove nerves, and avoid the awkward silence at the end.
Student public speaking tip #4
Practice, practice, practice.
Quite simply, the student who prepares is the student who performs! The more you can practice the better. If possible, practice a few times in front of your fellow students. Also offer to watch their public speaking skills too. You may pick up tips from them about elements missing in your speech.
It’s important that you don’t leave your practicing until the last minute. Rehearse a few days in advance, so there is still time to improve or make changes to your speech.
Student public speaking tip #5
Don’t be afraid.
Professors, examiners, censors and other academics can all make for an intimidating audience, but do not be afraid. The truth is, these people really want you to succeed. They want to hear what you have learned, and they want to give you the best grade possible. No teachers are truly evil and want you to fail.
When public speaking as a student, remember, your audience is on your side. They want you to do well.
Student public speaking tip #6
Speak loudly and clearly.
Aim your voice to the back of the room. This is especially important for students who are nervous, those who have a quiet voice, or those who struggle with English as their speaking language.
Often times I hear students public speaking with incredibly quiet voices, and this makes the teacher think they have no confidence in what they are saying.
Speak loud and proud! It might help to make sure a classmate sits in the back row of the lecture theatre and you aim your voice towards them. If they can hear you on the back row, they can hear you everywhere.
Student public speaking tip #7
Use your notes, but not too much.
When students present difficult or complicated academic data, make sure you have it written down in note form, so that you do not forget important details.
However, you do not want to get stuck into the presentation style of reading everything off a sheet of paper.
Have a general outline of the sections of your talk, with bullet points for important facts, figures and quotes. That way, you can “freestyle” the parts you know, and read only the parts that need strong accuracy. This will make you look natural, but prepared.
Student public speaking tip #8
Consider something different.
As a student public speaker, it pays to be creative, especially if your teachers are sitting through presentation after presentation all day long. Try to mix up your presentations with something a little different.
Do you have an object that you can pass around to show what you are talking about?
Can you involve the teacher or another student in a live demo?
Could you use an interactive element?
Maybe you incorporate your key points onto your clothing, or dress in a way that is connected to your presentation?
Will you act out a little mini-play that helps prove a point?
By using something different you can show that you put in the extra effort into the creativity of your presentation. Don’t go overboard though. I would suggest that this extra creativity takes up no more than 2 minutes of your overall public speaking time. Any more than that, and it stops being fun and starts being a gimmick.
Student public speaking tip #9
Always stick to time.
If you have been given 10 minutes as a student to speak publicly, at 9 minutes 59 seconds you should say “Thankyou”. Thats it. Do not go over time. Not even by 1 second.
Going over your allotted time shows disrespect to those watching, and it also is disrespectful to other students who may be speaking after you.
If you find that you can’t fit everything in to your time, cut out any unnecessary elements from your talk, simplify your points, or perhaps don’t go into extreme details on everything. Sometimes just a passing mention is all that is needed.
Student public speaking tip #10
Don’t tell us what we already know.
This is, perhaps, by far, the single most annoying mistake that students make when public speaking. They tell us what we already know.
If the teacher has spent a whole semester on a particular subject, and then you have to speak on that subject, there is no need to give a detailed introduction of what you have already been taught.
The biggest tip I give to student public speakers is not to say what you know, but to say how you used what you know.
It is very boring to say “X plus Y equals Z”, but it is exciting to say “I was able to get result Z when I took X and added it to Y”. You are a human being, not a human reading out wikipedia pages. Tell us what YOU did with the knowledge, not what the knowledge specifically is.
I hope you follow these tips for students the next time you are public speaking. If you know of any students who may benefit from these tips, please do share this page with them.