20 Public Speaking Tips for Students

Public speaking is a task that strikes fear into many. We have formulated 20 public Speaking tips for Students because,  whether we like it or not, it is an important part of work life for the vast majority. In a recent talk we presented to a local year group of students, when asked how many had parents who had to deliver presentations for work.  100% raised their hands. 

Getting to grips with this early on is key to becoming more comfortable and confident.  When you are at college in a learning environment, this is the best time to start developing this important job ready skill. 

What tips can we offer for you to get the ball rolling?  Here are 20 Public Speaking tips for Students.  Some are for when you are actually in front of an audience, but many of the tips we have, will help you to be more confident and better prepared to be an effective speaker.

Public Speaking Tip 1 – Always Give It A Go

Our first Public Speaking Tip for students is to take every opportunity.

At College and University opportunities come up frequently to give talks to present your studies, thesis or research. 

Last year I spoke with a business entrepreneur and inventor who said he had chosen his subjects at University on the basis of how little he may have to speak in public.  On leaving University he ran a relatively successful construction supply business.  More recently though, he has invented a new product and business to boot, however he has not developed the skills necessary to successfully lift the business off the ground.  His biggest struggle is presenting his product and speaking in front of potential investors and buyers.  

Life skills like public speaking are so important.  Like with all skills, the younger you develop them and the more frequently you perform them, the easier they become.  You will be more comfortable performing these skills in front of others.  For most people, nothing is easy straight away. 

Tip 2 – Think Before You Speak

I’m sure you have heard that saying a million times, hopefully less as you get older! 

This tip has a slightly different angle.  Usually when you hear that phrase, it’s from a parent or teacher, and they have said it because you’ve just said something stupid.  However, this is not for that purpose.    

What do you need to think about?  Think about your speech in everyday life, before you even get to give a presentation.

Think about things like:

How complex is your vocabulary?  Do you have patterns in your everyday speech?  Do you repeat certain words or phrases? What is your Grammar like? Do you use a lot of slang etc….

Public speaking, although practised and planned often reflects your day to day speech.  So, think about how you talk on a day to day.  If you repeat certain words…. ‘you know’ ‘like’ ‘really’, ‘uh’ ‘er’ etc… then what will your listener think?  These things stand out during a presentation. 

Your friends of your peer group may have the same speech mannerisms, so you may not detect these habits easily if they are a pattern in your speech.  Those who are older than you will undoubtedly notice and possibly have a little giggle at your expense.  If that happens in a Job interview or important presentation, this could have slightly more serious ramifications. 

Pay attention to how you speak.  Picking up on bad patterns in your everyday speech is a great tip to help you to become a more polished speaker.

Tip 3 – Power Pose

Posture is an important part of confidence.  The whole shoulders back, chest out and chin up.  It seems silly to think that your posture can affect how you feel, but studies show it really does.

Try this:  Walk down a street and hold your head high. Walk purposefully and in a way that you feel would project confidence.  Repeat a positive mantra in your mind.  Just something simple about feeling confident and calm.  See how that impacts how you feel. 

Doing the same when public speaking will greatly enhance your confidence.   You may initially feel it’s just a front, an act, and it may be.  You will probably still be a little nervous, however, it will be to a lesser degree.  Another positive is, your audience will not know it is a front, and they will have more confidence in you as a speaker.

Tip 4 – Smile

When you smile, you not only look happier but you LOOK more confident too.  The great bonus is though, that it also makes you FEEL more confident. 

Appropriate smiling whilst presenting will help you to overcome your public speaking jitters. 

When you stand up and take the podium, or the front of the class, take a moment to give a smile to your audience.  You’ll get some instant positive feedback and a subconscious confidence boost.

Tip 5 – Read

Reading is a vital skill.  It is also  an important element for practicing to become a great speaker.  So reading features a few times in our 20 Public Speaking Tips for Students.

Reading is a great way to improve your vocabulary.  Depending of course on what you read!! So make it a habit of reading regularly.

Having a depth of vocabulary means when you are on the spot and under pressure you will have more scope to get yourself out of trouble, and find a suitable word.  

This ability allows you to be extemporaneous and easy to listen to.

Tip 6 – Read Aloud

Of course, reading is great, but reading out loud is even better. 

When you read out loud you are essentially training yourself with all the vocal skills and abilities you need to be a good clear public speaker.   Diction, Projection, Enunciation, Clarity etc…

If you have a tendency to get a little tongue tied, reading aloud frequently can help you to be more able to control your speech organs and enunciate better, even under more pressure.

If you have good diction and the audience can understand you clearly then what you present will have more effect than if you were unclear and stumbling over words.  

You can practice with tough wordy material to really push yourself.

Tip 7 – Don’t Fight Your Feelings

It is incredibly British to hide how you feel.  But emotions will connect you to your audience.

You will also have a greater motivational force when your audience are moved by how you feel about your topic. Whether it be excitement, passion or even distress.  Depending on the situation and objective, showing the right emotion can really move your audience.

Here’s a little exercise for this.

Sorry, it involves reading again…  Chose a piece of literature, a good story.  Read aloud to a friend or family member.  Try to convey not just the story, but also the emotion of the characters and the feelings you imagine the author would want you to feel.  Your best audience are sometimes children, you can start with some children’s stories, and see how captivated they are by your reading.

If you can express your thoughts with both clarity and feeling you have a winning combination for public speaking.

Tip 8 – Get Comfortable

If you have to give a presentation, make sure you prepare what you’ll wear. 

You need to accomplish 2 objectives. 

1. Feel good about how you look.  Wear something you like, this will aide your confidence levels.

2. No overheating.  When you get nervous you warm up, get clammy and experience a number of other symptoms at times.  All normal stuff, but if you wear something that is tight around the neck or feels extra warm this can add to the symptoms, and the more you are aware of your rise in temp the more uncomfortable and nervous you’ll become.

Tip 9 – Know Your Topic

It’s all well and good thinking you have the gift of the gab, but what is your content like?  

Are you presenting superficial information that your audience will already know?  Are you working with up to date facts? Having a good understanding of your topic will ensure you can speak with authority without being vague.

Knowing your topic also means that you can speak freely without having to rely too heavily on notes.  When you can speak without too many notes your audience will have more confidence in you.

Tip 10 – Practice

So half way through our 20 Public Speaking Tips for Students and we have a very important one now.

Public speaking should be you, but smoother.  The more you practise the more likely this will happen.

In everyday speech you may not feel like you can get your thoughts out coherently at times.  Imagine you had a run through before every conversation you have. You could pause time and practice your responses a few times before the real-life response. I’m sure you would be a lot more concise and articulate. 

When you have a presentation, this is the case.  You may have a complex topic to speak about.  You may have more to say in one go than you would in a normal conversation.  That’s why practicing is so important.  It allows you to be you….. but a little more polished. 

Practicing aloud will also give you a good idea of what sounds ok… outside your head.

Tip 11 – It’s Not All About You

Most of the common reasons why people do not like public speaking revolve around themselves.

I can’t do this, I can’t do that, I’m not good at this, What if I do this…..

Remember – It is not all about you.  How about taking a different approach!  Rather than being egocentric, look out. 

Focus on what you want to say.  Think about the people you will speak to and why they will benefit from what you have prepared. The less you think about yourself the more comfortable you’ll be. 

Every time you feel those nerves of anticipation build, think more about your topic or your audience needs than how you feel.  The audience are more important than you.

Without an audience, you’ll just be talking to yourself. We all know what that means!

Tip 12 – Stories

Stories are a great way to capture the imagination.  A good story with a moral or link to the rest of your material will help to engage, captivate and ensure your audience get the point easily.

We all love a good tale, so never be afraid to get one in. 

A word of caution though, no one likes a pointless endeavour.  Sticking a long winded meandering story which doesn’t go anywhere or prove anything, will more likely irritate than entertain.  Make sure the stories used have an objective.

Tip 13 – First Impressions – Good Introductions

There are 2 areas in a presentation you want to be smooth. You will have to practice these more than the main body of your talk.  Out of the 20 public speaking tips, these are the most important pre-presentation points to bare in mind.

The first is the introduction. 

You’ve only got a few seconds to make a first impression, so get off to a good start. 

Don’t spend a long time, if at all, introducing yourself, or your topic.  A poor intro can sometimes be hard to come back from.

Start with an interesting story, statement, play on words or question. Make them curious or interested.  Once you have won their interest you can then sink into your content.  Hopefully seamlessly tying in from your story or question…… whatever you used to grab their attention.

Tip 14 – A Strong Finish

The 2nd area you want to ensure goes well is the end.  Your conclusion is the other thing that needs to be more rehearsed. 

Can you tie back into your intro, go full circle? 

Include a strong call to action.  Make sure your audience know why they have just listened to you, and what you want them to do with the information they’ve just heard. 

What is said last is often remembered the longest, so make your final words count.

Tip 15 – Know your Audience

Another important tip for public speakers is to know who you are speaking to. 

If you have an idea of who will make up your audience, you will be able tailor what you say to them.  What is their depth of knowledge?  Do you need to make it more complex, or, do you need to dumb it down a little?

Knowing the make-up of your audience will help when planning what you will say and what you will need to include.

Tip 16 – Eye Contact

Keeping good eye contact throughout any presentation will have a few benefits. 

Firstly, you get a good gauge of how your audience is reacting.  When you see how your audience reacts you can tailor what you say to suit.  If they looked perplexed you can explain a little more.  If they look shocked, you can clarify.  If they look bored then you can change it up, or involve them more.  It will mean you can serve your audience better.  It will feel more like a conversation than a lecture.

Another benefit is that when you get positive feedback from your audience it can make you feel more comfortable and confident. 

Also, when you have good eye contact with your audience you generate a relationship of trust.  People don’t generally trust someone who struggles to look them in the eye. 

Eye contact builds trust, and helps you to respond to your audience

20 Public Speaking tips for students

Tip 17 – Gestures and Facial Expressions

Your words are just a small portion of your communication.  Gestures are a natural part of communication. 

It’s not just what you do with your hands though.  What you do with your body and face will also say a lot too. 

You don’t want your gestures to be unnatural and forced, which is a real possibility when in an unnatural situation like public speaking.  You see this a lot with politicians, forced monotonous and unmeaningful gestures, possibly trained into their style.

Pay attention to what you do day-to-day.  A little bit like your speech in Tip2 of our 20 public speaking tips for students. 

What is normal for you?  How would you express yourself, what faces would you pull, where and how would you gesture in a normal friendly conversation?  Then carry that over, so you behave in a natural manner whilst at the podium.

Tip 18 – Self Belief

‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t….. you’re right.’

This is where either being cultured or having children pays off!  Priceless quotes!

That quote from Boss Baby or Henry Ford (depending on whether you’re cultured or have children)  is very true.  The story we tell our selves will have a massive impact on what we are able to accomplish.  Tell yourself you can do it and you will be able to. 

You may need to keep telling yourself, be your own propaganda minister.  The more you tell yourself something, the more you’ll believe it. 

Tip 19 – How To Use Notes

The notes you use when speaking will either help you or hinder you.  

If your notes are too extensive you will inevitably rely on them too heavily and will more likely end up reading your presentation.  This is true whether on PowerPoint or prompt cards.  You will lose your appeal and effectiveness if your eyes are diverted for too long during your presentation. 

On the other end of the spectrum will you go solo?  No notes! 

This is fine depending on ability, if you don’t have notes it may make you more nervous about forgetting something.  If you do forget something, it could throw you whilst you’re presenting. 

Work to your strengths and ensure you  only have what you need, but not too much.

Tip 20 – Pace Yourself

Our last tip of our 20 Public Speaking Tips for Students.

Often when a person gets nervous, they speed up.  How can you keep a good pace that is easy and enjoyable to listen to? 

Make sure you take time to breathe. Slow down and enunciate words properly especially when important points are being made.  Allow each sentence time to sink into the listeners mind and take a breath. 

Effective pace is not all about being slow and deliberate all the time, this will stifle your presentation and make it sound weird.

There will also be times when picking up the pace will have impact, like expressing conviction, passion or excitement.  But this level of sustained pace will also irritate if not controlled. 

Modulating your pace effectively makes for a natural delivery.

Take it one Tip at a time

There we have our 20 Public Speaking Tips for Students. This all sounds like an awful lot to remember.  Ultimately Tip.1 is the most important.  The more you do, the more comfortable you will become.  

Like with any skills, having a good coach can vastly help to get you where you want to be a lot quicker.  Coaching in a supported environment together with friends in the same boat can make for some fun learning too. 

Keynote Speaker Ltd offer some great discounted coaching options for students, If you would like to organise a day course or half day course for a group of your peers then just click here to get in touch.


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