Is Public Speaking Required in College?


Your college years are a time when you will inevitably have to learn new skills, push your boundaries, and try things that you might otherwise not have been inclined to do.

It is almost certain that you will be required to do some public speaking in college no matter what you major in. Whether it is contributing to a seminar, giving a presentation about your work, or as part of an examination; you will be required to stand up and speak in front of a group.

While this may sound discouraging to some of you, I’m sharing a list of scenarios in which you might need to do public speaking while at college, with some tips on how to approach them, in order to minimize stress and maximize your results.

Public Speaking at Seminars

Business people group at meeting seminar presentation.

In many cases, you might not think that contributing to a seminar discussion is classed as an act of public speaking. However, you’d be wrong. After all, you are speaking to a group of people, in public, about a particular subject of interest. You have a captive audience and they will be listening to you.

The only difference is that, unlike a typical presentation, the likelihood is that there will be an element of to-and-fro after you have finished speaking. One of your fellow students might reply with their thoughts, or your professor might ask you a question about what you said.

Either way, you can use these seminar discussions to build your confidence when it comes to airing your ideas in a public forum. If you are able to speak off the cuff about an idea in a seminar, then the chances are that you will be able to do so, confidently, when it comes to giving a more structured and serious presentation.

What’s more, if you regularly contribute in class discussions then the chances are that you will understand the subject matter more. This will make giving presentations on it easier when the time comes, and it will mean that you will be able to deal with the subject more confidently in your written work too.

You may also be asked to present in your seminar and lead the discussion in the class afterwards. This might appear daunting at first, but if you use this as a place in which to practice your public speaking then you will feel much more comfortable doing so in situations where you might actually be being marked.

Public Speaking during Lectures

In some courses, you may be asked to contribute to your lectures. Whether that is speaking up and asking questions when you are unsure about the subject matter, or actually standing in front of the class and contributing more formally.

In either case, you should see this in the same way you approach speaking in a seminar. Just because you might be in a lecture theatre, with your course mates sat in banks of rows staring at you in anticipation, doesn’t mean that you should approach it any differently to how you would speaking to the same group of people in a smaller seminar room.

One of the advantages to presenting as part of a lecture, is that you are likely to also be able to develop your skills when it comes to putting together a presentation on either Slides or PowerPoint – depending on which software you prefer.

This will make you think about how much or how little content you need to include and how you formulate this alongside what you are saying. Which are crucial skills you need to develop if you are going to be giving presentations in the workplace after you have graduated.

Exams

Students giving a group presentation
Students giving a group presentation (Image Credit)

Some subjects have graded presentations, where your performance will go towards your overall grade at the end of the course. In many ways, these are the most daunting presentations you will have to do at college. However, you should also see them as an opportunity.

While a lot may be resting on them, you should use it as a chance to set yourself apart from your classmates. You can be more creative with a presentation than you can with an essay, and you can convey more of your individual personality.

If the situation calls for it, you can crack a joke, share an interesting anecdote or simply use an image that really grabs the attention of your audience.

Although this might feel strange given that you are being graded in an academic environment, this is how you should think about it if you want to achieve the bets marks.

After all, the top-grade brackets are differentiated not only by the best content but in the delivery of the person presenting. 

It’s also important to remember that almost everyone else who will be presenting as part of their own examination will be feeling exactly the same as you. Even those who appear to be naturally good speakers will probably have some nerves going into the exam.

Therefore, you must channel the nerves you do have into giving you the energy to provide an engaging talk, which will excite your examiner and propel you on to achieve the best marks possible.

Extra-curricular

You may also find that there are opportunities to develop your skills of public speaking beyond the remit of your given course. For example, you may wish to join a drama society or the debating team, in order to build your confidence, meet new people and develop crucial skills that will not only come in handy on your course, but also in life more generally.

You can also develop skills of public speaking more subtly in a variety of other extra-curricular activities that you can take part in at college. For example, even if you join a sports club you can try and be the member of the team who gives a rousing speech before the big game.

You might even become a member of a society, from a games club through to the group associated with people from your country of origin. In each and every case there will no doubt be a committee whose job it is to organize the activities and funding of such groups.

Therefore, getting involved with them will provide you with the chance to deliver regular presentations to the group about your role within the committee.

This can be a very relaxed and informal way to build your confidence with regards to public speaking, all while developing your social skills and making friends along the way!

Can you Avoid Public Speaking in College?

Unfortunately, the hard truth is that you can not avoid public speaking or giving presentations in college. However, the best way to overcome this challenge is to fight your fears and become confident at public speaking!

There are hundreds of ways in which people will suggest that you can eliminate your fears about presenting in public. However, the best place to begin is to understand that it is justifiable that you will be scared to speak publicly. It is natural to feel vulnerable in this circumstance – but knowing this can be used as a way of overcoming your fear.

We actually wrote a detailed post on why people fear giving presentations and speaking in public, and shared a few very specific tips on how to overcome this fear! Do give it a read!

Once you have addressed the issues why you are scared to speak in public, and once you then understand them; then you will be able to find the best methods which work for you in order to minimise the levels of stress you experience before, during and after giving a presentation.

If, for example, you are scared that your friends will judge you for not knowing enough; or if you are self-conscious about how you hold yourself when you stand in front of people, then you can ask your friends if you can practice in front of them in order to deal with these issues.

You can even film yourself on your phone to make sure that you come across how you like and that your timings are correct. It might be uncomfortable to listen to yourself back at first, but this can be a really useful tool in bettering your public speaking skills.

You’ll also find out the things you do that you find annoying. This is worth knowing because the chances are other people watching you will notice them too!

Remember, Public Speaking and Presentation Skills Makes You More Employable!

Finally, it is important to remember that a bad presentation isn’t the end of the world. What’s more, the reason you will be being asked to put yourself out of your comfort zone in order to present, is so that you can develop your confidence and build skills (like public speaking) which are crucial when it comes to looking for a job when you leave college.

So, take every chance you can to master these skills at college. Then look for help from the college staff and your friends, in order to really nail down the skills you need to become a great giver of presentations.

Most colleges have teams of staff dedicated to helping students to build these skills, yet very few students make the most of their services.

Seek them out and ask for their help, especially if you are someone who does not feel confident in presenting when you first arrive on campus. If you do so, and take all the opportunities above, then you will be well set to speak confidently in public by the time you graduate.

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