A Quick Guide to Improving Your Public Speaking Prowess

Study art history in ItalyStudents who attend university in Italy already understand the crucial importance of communication. From ordering lunch in a new language to defending an important point during classroom discussion, being able to speak your mind clearly and persuasively is a big part of getting ahead in life.

In fact, anyone pursuing a liberal arts degree will find that communication is truly at the heart of each academic discipline. Whether your goal is to study Art History in Italy, take courses in International Business, or minor in Marketing, you will find yourself building advanced speaking, writing, and argumentation skills during your studies. And then you’ll apply that expertise to land a great job after graduation.

Whether your dream is to launch a start-up, work for a multinational corporation, continue on to graduate school, or become a politician – chances are you’ll leverage the excellent communication skills you developed in university to get there. And one of the most commonly called upon of those skills (and for some, the most challenging) is public speaking.

There’s no doubt that public speaking is an imperative skill for today’s undergraduate—both in class and after graduation. But how does one get comfortable speaking in front of others? Here are some practical tips to get you there:

Map It Out

Very few people can give coherent and persuasive speeches on the fly, with no preparation. Imagine trying to write an essay or research paper without making an outline or even establishing a central argument. It’s virtually impossible to do a good job. Whether you’re preparing for an in-class debate or pitching a new idea during your internship, it’s best to map out what you’d like to say in advance. Begin with your main point and then build your supporting arguments and ideas from there. Some students use a mind map for this initial brainstorming process – an ideal tool for organizing the pillars of your speech in a visual way.

Earn the Audience’s Attention

When you’re delivering a formal talk or giving a presentation in class, it’s important to capture the audience’s attention right from the start. Excellent public speakers often start off their speech with a short anecdote. This anecdote could be a joke, a story, a quote, or anything else that ties into the topic of your speech. A small ice-breaker helps alleviate tension, putting both the audience and the speaker at ease. It also primes your audience to listen closely, while helping you ease into your talk.

Be Smart About Using Notes

Students who study abroad in Rome at JCU know that speaking up in class is a big part of the learning experience. Our small class sizes mean that everyone gets a chance to address the group and make their views known. Sometimes this involves delivering a longer talk that may require notes, Prezi or PowerPoint.

Chances are you will use the first step we describe here (Map it Out) to prepare for your speech, which means you’re already off to a great start. However, constantly looking down at a piece of paper, or reading directly off of a projector screen, can cause you to lose engagement with your classmates. It’s important to create notes and visual aids that complement what you’re saying – not duplicate your speech. Notes should simply function as prompts or reminders for your main ideas. Projected displays should highlight your arguments and provide some graphics. This way, you can stay on track, entertain your audience, and get your views across like a pro.

Do you know of any other tips for enhancing a public speaking performance?

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