Help! I have to give a speech! College Life

Hello everyone:

In some of your classes, you may find that a speech is a requirement to pass the course. Take a moment and take a deep breath. Do not drop the course- I will walk you through how to do this.

The first consideration is: what does the speech have to be about? With my communication classes, the requirements vary but most every one requires an informative speech. You may say, “But what will I talk about? I don’t know how to inform anyone about anything! I’m a kid!” (Okay, so maybe you left that last sentence out, but you may have thought it!)

Find out if the professor has any restrictions on what you share. For example, in my classes no one is allowed to talk about exotic pets (a fellow brought in a very angry boa constrictor one time!), the legalization of drugs (I have heard at least 40 speeches on that- how boring), or abortion (sorry, I am tired of looking at bloody clothes hangers).

After you find out this information, brainstorm with yourself and see if you can generate any ideas on your own. Failing this, go to google and type in the words “topics for informative speeches.” The last time I looked, there were numerous postings and the first one offered 333 possible topics. Pick one or two that you like and ask for permission to speak on one or the other.

Start your research. Where you look for information will depend on any restrictions from your instructor (visitors to a tattoo parlor are not reliable sources unless you are discussing the customer experience of getting a tattoo). The professor may allow Wikipedia articles or not.

After you get your sources together, treat this assignment like an essay (see my blog on writing an essay) as far as coming up with your three main points. Add a strong conclusion that summarizes what you have said. Now you need to make your introduction interesting and attention-getting. The most attention-grabbing intro I ever heard was from a young woman who began stripping and calling us all “losers.” She was giving a speech on dressing for success and, by the time she was done, she had changed her clothes in front of the class. She had begun wearing a lumpy sweatshirt and sweatpants and finished her talk dressed in a business suit with pearls and heels. It was very interesting! She concluded her speech by encouraging us to remember that clothes really do make the man (or woman).

Finally, practice, practice, practice. No, you cannot just “get up there and wing it.” I have given 2 hour speeches that I practiced five times in the 24 hours before I gave them. When driving from my home to my graduate school (a four-hour drive), I practiced the defense of my dissertation OUT LOUD the entire way. You do the math. That’s the thing- you must practice these presentations out loud and with your visual aids.  If you try to “wing it,” I will know it, and you will fail the speech.

You really can do this! I have seen students whose faces shook and knees knocked the entire time they were speaking while giving their first speeches. By the end of the semester, they were speaking confidently because they were prepared and had practiced. Some of them even decided to minor in communication because they loved public speaking so much. If they did it, you can too!

Best,

Dr. Sheri


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Sheri Dean Parmelee has a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Regent University. She writes books on practical tips for people who become unexpectedly unmarried and is working on her second novel in a series of contemporary romance/suspense novels. She teaches at three colleges, working with students from freshmen to graduate students. Her hobbies include running 8 miles a day and reading biographies and fiction.

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