Introduction: Presenting a Speech in a College Class

Presenting a speech in college can be intimidating. The expectations and guidelines presented by professors are not always clear. Unless your college class is specifically a public speaking class, there are many small technicalities in public speaking that often go undiscussed until the student gets their first grade back. The intention of this instructable is to give a detailed guide through every step of creating, practicing, and presenting a speech in a college class.

Going into presentation day, there are four things the speaker might need:
1. Proper Attire (necessary)

2. Speech Outline (necessary)

3. Note card(s) with speech outline on them (optional)

4. Visual Aid(s) (optional)

The important thing to understand about writing a speech is that the first time will always take longer to prepare for than the rest. You are not only completing an assignment, but also learning the process to do so as you go. The more speeches you present in college, the less time it will take you to prepare. The process can take anywhere from an hour and a half to nearly ten hours not including the time spent actually giving the speech. The preparation time can be divvied up quite differently based on:

· If the topic was given to you or if you need to brainstorm your own idea (0 to 30 minutes)

· How long the speech needs to be and thus the writing process will take (1 to 3 hours)

· If the speech needs visual aids or research (0 minutes to 2 hours)

· The amount of time the you need to spend practicing to feel confident in your work. (30 minutes to an hour and a half)

· If the you already own the proper attire (5 minutes to 2 hours)

· How long your class is (length of class time)

Step 1: Knowing Your Audience

Part of ensuring that your topic is relevant for your audience is knowing them. This step takes no time, but instead is used throughout every step of this process. As seen above, there are four potential members of your audience. When presenting to a class of students who have to be there mandatorely, it is important that you appeal to all four types.

The friendly audience is familiar with your topic and agrees with the stance you’ve taken. This audience requires the least convincing. To appeal to them, you simply need to present the information clearly and concisely. It is crucial that you only present accurate information to this group however. An easy way to lose this audience is to state something as fact that they, being knowledgeable in the field, know is not true.

The neutral audience has never heard of or given thought to your topic. They are willing to listen and are open to taking your stance. You win this group over by presenting the factual information and never appearing as if you are trying to manipulate them to take your side. This is done by not speaking negatively about the stances that oppose your own and letting the information speak for itself.

The indifferent audience is apathetic. They might or might not have known about the topic before your presentation but they don’t care either way. There are two ways to sway this group. The first is to entertain them and the second is to show them what is in it for them. Occasional jokes, entertaining personal stories, and raising your voice to passionately make a point in your speech are all options to draw in this audience. You must also let the audience know why this topic benefits or should be important to them from the very start of your speech.

The hostile group knows about your topic but has a negative feeling towards the subject or is in direct opposition with your stance. With this audience, it is important that you never show hostility back at them. Your call to action, the ending point of your speech when you ask the audience to act, needs to feel welcoming and optional. Those who oppose your opinion should never feel attacked, condescended, or forced into changing their opinion. Instead, show kindness and only speak positively about your stance, never negatively about theirs.

Step 2: Selecting a Topic

The second step in presenting a speech in college is to select your topic. This step should only take about 30 minutes. The number one thing to consider when choosing a topic is whether the subject is relevant or not. As seen in the picture above, there is a three-step process that ensures the topic you select will be interesting, appropriate, and relevant.

1. Create a list of topics that interest you on one column of a paper. If you’re not interested in your topic, your audience won’t be either.

2. In another column of the paper, determine why the topic is relevant to your audience. If it isn’t, cross it out.

3. Finally, add in potential issues that listeners might have with your topic. If the topic could be too controversial or boring, cross it out.

After completing these steps, you should have one or two topics that are great options for you to present in class. Choose the one the interests you most and keep in mind how you decided you can make it relevant for your audience when you go to write your outline.

Step 3: Writing an Outline

Now that you know your topic and what to be wary of when presenting your speech, you can write the speech outline. This process usually only takes about an hour, but if you are a slower writer or the speech needs to last the entire class time allow up to three hours. Similar to an outline you might have seen in your high school English class, a speech has an introduction, body, and conclusion. However, unlike an English assignment, writing for a speech ends at the outline. Revisions and the final copy come from practicing. The most important thing to keep in mind when writing the outline for your speech is what you are presenting and why you are presenting it. Do not get off topic or talk about something that has no value to the listener. Above is an outline you can use to fill out a guideline for your speech to ensure this happens. It includes:

The Introduction:

· The Hook- this is meant to grab the attention of the audience. It can be a personal experience, joke, fact, or quote

· The What- What are you presenting about?

· Previewing Body Paragraphs- How will you be presenting your subject? Preview the main points of your speech

· The Why- Why is your subject worth listening to? How is it relevant and valuable to the audience?

· Transition- there are no paragraph breaks in public speaking so you must make clear verbal transitions between each section of your speech


· Point 1:

o Entertainment- The beginning of each point is the opportunity to draw the audience back in, with a light-hearted joke, phrase, or short story

o The Point- what is the point you are making

o The Proof (supporting ideas)- explain your point and present resources, experiences, and ideas that support it

o Transition: transitional phrase that brings you into your next point

*all points follow the same format


· Restatement of the what, why, and how/main point: Briefly summarize what you have presented in three sentences or less

· Call to Action: Present your audience with a goal or assignment. In short, call them to take the information you have shared and do something with it

· Closing Statement: Make sure your speech clearly ends. Adding the phrase, “Thank you,” to the end of this sentence is a good way to complete your speech professionally

Step 4: Adding in Visual Aids and Research

Visual aids and research can make a significant improvement of the validity of your speech. Visual Aids are great additions to a speech when what you are discussing is difficult to describe but easy to show. Selecting a visual aid takes almost no time unless you need to buy, build, or create the aid. In that case, it could potentially add around an hour to your preparation time. Visual aids should be selected with deep consideration. For example, only the Rubik’s Cube is a good choice from the images above because, on top of being easily visible, is interactive. If your speech was about the different kinds of Rubiks Cubes and methods to solving them, having the actual cubes makes your speech easier to comprehend and follow. These rules will help you in selecting a strong visual:

1. The object should be large enough for the entire audience to see (If there is an object you want to use that is too small, try making a larger model version of it)

2. It is best to not choose an object that could roll, spill, make noises, or cause any kind of distraction to your speech

3. Animals are not a good choice for the reason above

4. Don’t use an object that has small script on it that the audience would have difficulty reading

5. Unless you have received permission from your professor prior to the day of your presentation, never use weapons, alcohol, drugs, or any other object that is illegal to have on your campus

Research is a valuable way to prove your points with solid evidence. It ensures that the audience doesn’t feel like they must take your word for what you have presented as fact. If you need to use research, allow yourself an extra hour to find the proper sources that will fit in with your speech. You can find your research using search engines such as Google Scholar, looking in your campus library, or pulling from relevant textbooks you might have. There is no formal works cited page in public speaking, so every quote or statistic you use needs to be verbally cited. For example, a speaker might say, “The character, Forrest Gump, states in the movie, Forrest Gump, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates…” Without this verbal recognition, you, as the speaker, are the culprit of plagiarism.

Step 5: Practicing

If you write out your entire speech and memorize it, you run the risk of coming off uninterested and flat. So instead, once you have completed your outline it is time to begin practicing aloud. You will create your final copy by practicing until you have a full length developed speech. Practicing can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half to do. It is completely up to you as the speaker to decide when you feel confident in your speech.

This is the time to decide when to add in your sources and play with the tone and style of your words. Once you have a good idea of what you want to say, stand up and find a mirror to practice speaking in front of like I am in the picture above. This is when to decide how to incorporate your visual aid(s) if you have any. As you practice your speech over and over take note of your facial expressions and stances. Here are a few dos and don’ts of presenting:

· Do appear welcoming: Smiling, making direct eye contact with the audience, and standing up straight with your head raised will naturally draw the audience in

· Do not appear nervous: cringing, fidgeting, shifting from one foot to the other, looking at the ground, or hunching over are all signs that you don’t have confidence in what you’re saying. If your audience thinks you don’t, they won’t either

· Do not appear overly aggressive: too often raising your voice, pointing, aggressive and large hand motions, staring too long at one individual, and walking too far forwards towards the audience all run the risk of making an individual or the group feel attacked

· Be wary of sexualizing yourself: This isn’t a common issue but one that can demand the full attention of every member of the audience and leave them feeling uncomfortable and completely unaware of anything you said. Keep your gestures above the waist, never stroke any area of your body including face and hair, and record and listen to your speech if you are concerned that some might misinterpret your tone of voice

Practice makes perfect, and the more speeches you present over time the less time you will have to spend practicing aloud to correct your small mistakes. However, it is a good standard, no matter how much experience you have, to practice your speech aloud at least five times before presentation day. Ultimately, practice until you feel comfortable and confident in what you are saying.

Step 6: Choosing Apparel

Appropriate dress code is entirely up to your individual professor. However it will usually be casual or business casual. If there is no dress code, I suggest dressing in a nicer outfit you might wear on a date or to a social event. Dressing professionally will never hurt you and can give you confidence and instill respect in your audience. The images above are examples of appropriate attires for either a casual or business casual dress code. If you do not already own an appropriate outfit, set aside at least an hour of your time to go buy one. Here is what is appropriate for men and women to wear in either a business casual or business formal dress code scenario:

· Casual, Men:

o A sweater, button up shirt, or plain shirt with no logos or designs

o Pants (not shorts)

o A belt

o Most shoes are appropriate for men besides flip flops, slides, or particularly worn down or flashy sneakers

· Business Casual, Men:

o Button up dress shirt

o Suit coat (optional unless specified by professor)

o Tie

o Slacks

o Belt

o Dress shoes

· Casual, Women:

o Blouse

o Simple Jewelry (optional)

o Pants, a modest skirt, or dress (not shorts)

o Heels (optional but they improve posture and confidence)

o No flip flops, slides, or worn down tennis shoes

· Business Casual, Women:

o Dress shirt or business suit blouse

o Simple jewelry (optional)

o Slacks or business skirt

o Dress (optional, but not preferable)

o Close toed heels

Step 7: Presenting

Every step you have done up to this point has prepared you for presentation day. This step only takes the length of your class time. You have selected a topic that is relevant and interesting, written an outline that has a solid format from start to finish, added in helpful resources and visual aids, practiced until you’ve felt confident in the entirety of your speech, and selected a professional and appropriate outfit. On the day of your presentation you implement all that you have done in front of the class. During other’s speeches remain quiet, respectful, and interested so that they will have no reason to treat you any different. When you walk up to present your speech, appear confident from the moment you stand to the moment you sit back down after you finish presenting. Like the picture above remember to smile, make eye contact, and stand up straight throughout the entirety of your speech. Don’t speak negatively or over confidently of yourself at any time and don’t discuss how the presentation went until you are fully out of the earshot of those grading you. If you are professional, confident, and implement all of your preparation, the speech will go well.