Jerry Seinfeld famously said, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
Are you a distance learner who falls into the category of being terrified of giving speeches in class? If so, this blog post is for you.
Even though your education is remote, you’ll likely have to give at least one or two speeches at some point. More importantly, an estimated 70% of careers require having public speaking skills. To prepare for life during and after college, you should consider getting comfortable giving speeches. Let’s dive in!
1. Get experience giving speeches
Take opportunities where you can to get experience giving speeches. If you have a team project for school, offer to be the person who presents. And if you have the opportunity to get extra credit by giving a speech, jump on it. Be sure to practice any upcoming speeches at least once or twice before giving them.
Aside from school, you can go to Toastmasters, which is a good organization where you can get some practice giving speeches. Or if you’re in a wedding, give a speech at the rehearsal dinner (if appropriate).
2. Film yourself giving a speech
Nowadays, many (if not most) distance learners have easy access to a camera. Recording a speech and watching it can help you spot issues like:
- Saying “um” or “like” every five seconds
- Constantly clearing your throat
- Shifting uneasily in your chair
- Scrunching up your brow for most of the speech
In this world of selfies and vlogs, you may already be super comfortable filming yourself talking. If you tend to get squeamish watching a recording of yourself, this will require you to push through your comfort zone.
Bonus tip: For best results, set up the camera far enough away so you can see your arms and legs during the speech. This can help you spot if your body language looks off.
3. Wear shoes on your hands
Not sure what to do with your hands during a speech? My high school drama teacher taught us to wear shoes on our hands during rehearsal. The idea is that you’ll become more aware of what your hands are doing when you’re in front of people.
So, practice that big speech for class by wearing shoes on your hands. Just remember to take them off before you give the speech in front of your fellow distance learners!
It’s important to be comfortable hanging out with friends and meeting new folks if you ever hope to feel comfortable speaking in front of a class. As a distance learner, you have plenty of options for meeting new people (even without going to a traditional college), such as volunteering, joining a church, or joining a local sports league.
5. Take a deep breath
If you want to appear relaxed before giving a speech, practice deep breathing exercises.
I suggest using the 4-4-8 method: Inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. Deep breathing can have a calming effect that will help settle your nerves before speaking in front of your class.
6. Get enough sleep
It’s difficult to give a speech if you keep yawning throughout it. So, be sure to get enough quality sleep, so that you can be at your best when speaking.
Shoot for seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Preparing for a big speech the night before won’t help you do this. You’ll want to be well rested and alert before your speech.
To get quality sleep, there are basic sleep hygiene tips you should practice, including:
- Washing your sheets weekly
- Sticking to a regular sleep/wake time (even on weekends)
- Turning off your phone, laptop, or TV at least one hour before bedtime (I think e-book readers like Kindle or Nook are typically OK since they’re designed to look like paper)
- Avoiding caffeine after 3pm
You may never feel completely comfortable giving speeches, but you can certainly feel less anxious about them. So, take a deep breath, go to bed early, and make sure you practice. You’ll be surprised how much smoother your speech will go.