Most people aren’t particularly confident in giving orals or public speaking in general. I began year 7 as a shy girl scoring a lousy 50% in her first English oral. It wasn’t until later on that I realised; even though I can write an amazing piece, it was my delivery and nerves that failed me. In year 9, I entered my first public speaking competition, and have been participating in such competitions ever since. I may not have won those, but it got me comfortable standing in front of people without shaking like someone with hypothermia. Now, I am achieving A+ on my oral assessments and am even on the SRC as Student Action Captain due to a great captaincy speech.
A few tips on writing your speech:
- Have a CAPTIVATING introduction sentence; use a short, clear and powerful sentence.
- RELATE to your audience so that it keeps them interested so they actually WANT to listen.
- If you are taking on a persona, firstly study and UNDERSTAND your character.
- Don’t forget your persuasive techniques. I usually use repetition in conjunction with the ‘rule of three’.
- Remember that you are writing a SPEECH, not an essay. Instill your oral with emotion, varied tone and and sentence lengths.
A few tips on your performance:
Memorise your speech
Always remember that practice makes perfect. Practice as much as possible; in front of anyone and everyone including yourself (use a mirror). Keep practicing until you can recite it.
As for cue cards, use dot points. Don’t just copy and paste whole sentences onto cue cards or else you’ll rely on them too much. Not to mention that it’ll be hard finding out where you are in the middle of your speech. Use “trigger words” so that if you forget your next point, you have something there.
But most importantly, if you mess up, keep going. Even if you screw up a word or suddenly forget your next point, just take a breath, correct yourself, and keep going. Do not giggle. If your friends make you laugh, don’t look at them.
Control your voice
Do not be monotone. Give it some energy; be pumped but not “I-just-downed-5-cans-of-V” pumped. Give it as much energy as it is appropriate for your speech. As you transition through various intense emotions such as anger, happiness and shock, your performance should reflect it. This is achieved in both your tone and your body language (moving around).
Speak as if you believe in your contention – with passion. Even if it’s just full of crap, if you sound confident, then your audience think, ‘wow, they sure know what they’re talking about’. Remember, confidence is key.
Don’t rush through your speech and speak at a million kilometres an hour – or even worse; skipping half of your speech because you just want to get the hell out of there. And also, speak so that the teacher can actually hear you. More likely than not, they’ll be sitting somewhere near the back of the room. After countless “too quiet” comments on my orals, I have finally mastered the art/power of projecting my voice. And it actually does make a huge difference.
Be aware of your actions
Don’t just stand like a statue in one spot. Think about real life – do you know anyone that stands completely and utterly still when talking to you? Make sure you look around the room; you're addressing everyone, not just one person. Don’t stare at your teacher; it freaks them out. You don’t even have to look at a specific place. I usually just start off looking at the back wall… then as I go through the speech, I naturally turn from one back corner of the room to the other. Also, try not to look down. Don’t try to look at your cue cards while they’re right up next to your body. Move it out when you need to have a GLANCE at them then go back to the audience.
I’ve seen some people pace. This seems alright (though I’ve never done it myself); but always make sure that you face the audience. If you’re doing a monologue (for text response), you can sit down… just don’t sit for your entire piece.
And some natural hand gestures don’t hurt either!
I’ve also heard of some people running around or on the spot about 15mins before a speech. This serves to help with your heart rate by using up all that ‘energy’. Personally, I close my eyes and concentrate on my breathing (so that my heart isn’t jumping out of my chest). Take some long, deep breaths and tell yourself that you can do it!
My teacher also showed me this speech last year:
“The girl who silenced the world for 5 minutes”
Even though she made a couple mistakes in her speech, she kept going and captivated the attention of the UN. Take a look and be inspired!!
Irene Ung is currently a year 12 student who aims to study Bachelor of Science or Biomed at University of Melbourne.
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