So, you’ve finished you’re A-levels and thanks to getting the grades you were hoping for, grades that you’ve worked hard to achieve, you have your pick of several fine learning establishments.
Not only that, but you can now spend the next 3 or 4 years studying you favourite subject. And notwithstanding the 200 hours you plan to spend partying during your first year, this will likely mean long afternoons in the library, brushing up on anything from sports science to archaeology.
What’s more, after spending a good bit of the summer plodding away at the extensive reading list your course leader was kind enough to forward you, you’re more than a little prepared to hold your own when it comes to anything from 3 hour exams to that 10,000 word dissertation you’ll be starting in your second hour.
Everything’s looking Rosie – well it bloody well was until half way through your first seminar when your lecturer informed you that you’d be expected to speak in front of the class for one of your first modules.
Who the hell thought that was a good idea? You signed up for an arts degree not to become a politician or attend the MTV awards so why on earth would you need to be getting involved in anything that means getting up in front of a classroom full of people you barely know and humiliating yourself as you stumble your way through the longest 5 minutes of your entire existence.
Well, the bottom line is that your uni hates you, as they hated me, and as they’ll no doubt hate many many many students for generations to come. After all, what other possible reason could they have to subject you to something so wholly abhorrent? (Well, maybe they want to teach you some valuable skills but we acknowledge that if we don’t have to).
Well, regardless of their reason, and regardless of what course you are studying, the chances are at some point you’ll be expected to take to the stage and talk for several minutes in front of your entire seminar group.
And despite how frightening it may appear, the good news is that there’s plenty you can do to prepare for the event which will likely make the entire event go a lot smoother and without leaving you feeling like you can never show your face in public again.
Step one – Practise
When it comes to public speaking the good news is that you don’t necessarily have to have the talent for it. Even if you feel slightly inadequate (which trust me, even many people that seem like the confident type do in these situations) the chances are the more you practise the better you’ll be. A good way to start is with a subject that you are comfortable with and a group of people who already know you such as friends or family.
The reason that you’ll want to start with a subject that you are familiar with is that the words will come easier and you’ll be able to focus all of your attentions on speaking in front of an audience.
Once you’ve done this a few times the chances are you’ll start to realise that you don’t sound half as bad as you thought you were going to and that people didn’t in fact try and end their own lives during the 5 minute period when they were forced to give you their undivided attention.
Step two – Bullet points
The last thing anyone who has the potential for nerves wants to do is to attempt to read entire sentences from a sheet of paper when speaking in front of an audience.
As such, the best thing to do is make a series of bullet points that you can use as a reminder when speaking. If you’ve asked to do a speaking presentation that is also timed it doesn’t do any harm to try and make sure that the bullet points can also guide you through the talk so that you are on course to fulfil the time requirements as well. If it’s a five minute talk maybe use 10 points and try and talk for 30 seconds per point.
Once you have your bullet points in place you can start practising for real and maybe even go back to your group of friends (if you haven’t bored them to death with your last talk in which you spoke for several minutes about how season 5 of Game of Thrones started nothing like the book – giving you an excuse to tell as many people as possible that you have read the books, and as such, are a superior human being)
Yes, at last you have an opportunity to film yourself doing something other than drowning 20 jager bombs and then throwing up in the bin outside your halls.
You may want to use a selfie stick, but personally I’d find that off putting so it might be an idea to set a camera up or get a friend to film you. Once you filmed yourself you can watch the video back looking at areas where you can improve and making adjustments where necessary.
Don’t be shocked if you watch the video and conclude that you look like an alien – with the exception of the narcissistic among us, most people don’t like seeing videos of themselves. It’s quite normal.
Remember to breathe
It can be very easy to forget to breathe when partaking in something as frightening as public speaking. As such, you may want to try some breathing techniques. Don’t panic, there’s an app for that, in fact there are plenty of apps for that so why not look around and see if you can find one that suits you. As someone who has sampled relaxation technique apps I can tell you that they are not all the same. So, if you try one and it’s not for you, don’t be put off, simply try another and see what happens.
We’re all in it together
Don’t worry, I’m not David Cameron, and this isn’t turning into an election broadcast for the Tories. But there is truth in this statement. Try and remember that many other people in the room feel exactly the same as you do. As such, they understand that you are nervous. And trust me, most will be far too busy concerning themselves with their own 5 minutes to be worrying about what you are saying. And if you bear this in mind, you might find that the entire experience isn’t as overwhelming as you thought it was going to be.
Good luck – despite my earlier protestations regarding public speaking, there is a good reason for doing these things and you never know, once you’ve reached the heights that we both know you’re destined for, there probably will come a day when you have to stand in front of a room full of people and receive accolades for your wonderful achievements.
When you do, don’t forget to thank me in your speech.
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