If you go to college you are going to have to give a speech in front of a class, and you are probably going to have to take a speech class that teaches you how to do this. Most people hate taking these classes. Take your speech class seriously, you can learn a lifelong skill. If you’re afraid to speak in public, a class that gives you a chance to speak in public can help you control or conquer that fear. Even if you are confident speaker, a speech class can add polish to your presentations. If you are an experienced speaker, a speech class can help you master your skills. Here are some steps to help you get the most out of your class and boost your GPA while you’re at it.
Trust the process of your speech class
There are no montage scenes in life, and you don’t get mastery over a subject over the length of a soundtrack. The design of your speech class will emphasize skills incrementally, in a way that builds skill on top of skill over time. Trying to do everything at once can be overwhelming. Trust the process and take one step at a time. Focus on the skills that the instructor is teaching at the time. Once you move on to the next assignment, build on those skills.
Know when your speeches are due
In most speech classes the majority of your grade comes from assigned speeches. It is critical not to be surprised by them. If you are a calendar person, put all of the speeches on your calendar and remind yourself a week before. Once the semester gets rolling, these assignments can sneak up on you.
Know the grading rubric
One of the difficulties in speech classes is the subjectivity in grading a speech. Any speech can get different reactions from different observers. To overcome this difficulty, speech teachers use rubrics. Rubrics are tables that indicate what you gain and lose points for in your speech. Your instructor is telling you what to do and what not to do.
Know your professor
There is a uniformity in what speech class instructors will be looking for from your speeches, but the emphasis placed on individual elements will vary. For example, I believe that that the introduction is critical to the rest of the speech, so I focus on the introduction in my grading. Other professors may emphasize eye contact, or evidence usage, or organization. Figure out what they want and concentrate on that.
Know how to talk to your professor
Don’t let your first exchange with your teacher be either a complaint or asking for a favor. Just like public speaking, first impressions are disproportionally influential and hard to overcome. Second, when you don’t get the grade you want it’s okay to talk to the instructor about it, but don’t challenge the class. Ask questions like, “why did I lose points in this area?” and “how can I improve?”
Know how to practice
You should practice your speech in two ways: internally and externally. I use internal practice to describe repeating and refining portions of your speech inside your head. You can do this while driving, showering, standing in line, whenever. It will help you become comfortable with the content.
External practice is saying the words out loud. If you have someone watching you, make sure they are honest and not just giving blind praise. I would advise against speaking to a mirror as the mirror skews your perception (although this is still better than nothing). Instead, set up the camera on your computer to record you speaking. Your computer gives you the same perspective as your audience, and it gives you an opportunity to view the speech later. You can also check out my article about how to get the most out of practice.
Follow the directions
In all of my courses, students probably lose more points from failing to follow directions than any other one area. Does your instructor want you to write out your speech or turn in an outline? Does the assignment require a power point or visual aid? When I was a graduate student, I had a student show up for speech day without a visual aid. As a last-minute visual-aid, he ran outside and drove his pickup truck onto the lawn outside the window. It didn’t work too well, and he got a ticket. Don’t lose points for failing to read the instructions carefully.
Stand out from the crowd
For most speech assignments you will have a latitude of freedom in choosing your topic. Utilize that freedom by picking a subject that is not ordinary. Look at this from the teachers perspective. You have to listen to student speeches all day long. After a while, they all start to sound the same. If you can keep your instructor interested, they will probably reward you on grading. That starts with topic selection. I have heard many, many speeches about the importance of exercise and why your hometown is the best or the dangers of texting and driving. If you are dead set on something that is ordinary, try arguing against conventional wisdom or presenting it from an angle not considered before.