Speaking successfully

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By Karen Pegueros

With appropriate hand gestures and effective pauses, Allie Gurr, 10, presents her topic to the board for her AP seminar exam. Photo by Karen Pegueros
With appropriate hand gestures and effective pauses, Allie Gurr, 10, presents her topic to the board for her AP seminar exam. Photo by Karen Pegueros

Public speaking is a skill practiced in classrooms, business meetings, and in leadership positions. When presenting, the usual tips should be kept in mind: stand up straight, avoid saying “um,” annunciate and project, and practice, practice, practice.

The first step to memorizing a speech is to, of course, read over it aloud multiple times but not all at once. Read sections or paragraphs at a time, focusing on specific sentences or phrases. Also, record the speech and listen to it over and over. This way, the mind subconsciously learns it; that is why songs are so easy to memorize.

“I read through my scripts, and then I slowly memorize each paragraph or section until I don’t have to look at my script anymore,” sophomore Rachel Warthan said on attempting to memorize her AP Seminar exam speech.

Avoid murmuring “um,” “uh,” or even beginning additional sentences that are not needed in moments of panic. Instead, let there be a moment of silence. The brain then has a moment to think. When in doubt, go rogue. Ditch the pre-planned speech and speak about the topic trying to hit as many of the key points possible.

“[Using filler words] definitely slows the flow of the speech and makes it seem less significant. A moment of silence can be good, but you also want to make sure you aren’t sitting there for 10 seconds saying nothing,” Travis Smith, junior, said.

When presenting, in addition to keeping a nice posture, walk around the stage or area taking small steps forward, never backwards, throughout. Before a speech, try visiting the stage and walking around to get comfortable with the space. Taking a moment to do the same or simply looking around before commencing the speech also helps gain perspective helping remove some of that fear.

Multimedia should remain simple focusing on the visuals rather than text. Forget Powerpoint and Prezi, instead use Piktochart and Haiku Deck. They can deliver a cleaner, more unique look.

“It depends on what you’re doing, but I love it [Haiku Deck]. It’s perfect for a clean presentation. Haiku is more user-friendly than PowerPoint,” Olivia Smith, senior, said.

If possible, leave the note cards at home, or at least write very minimal notes to ward off solely staring at them. Having papers in hand distracts the speaker and the audience, forcing the presenter to have an irresistible urge to keep glancing down at the cards.

With preparation and confidence, a successful presentation can be achieved. Stand, smile, and speak.