One of the greatest fears for all people, from children to senior citizens, is public speaking. For many, talking in front of others is simply terrifying. Especially within educational settings, there inevitably comes a time when it’s necessary to present for an audience.
There are many classic coping techniques, ranging from speaking slowly and remembering to breathe to picturing the audience in silly ways to help the speaker calm themselves down. Today, technology offers even more ways to conquer the fear and teach students how to master public speaking skills.
More than ever, our communication skills are text based: email, text messages, or “liking” a post means we aren’t speaking as much to others. This is true for students especially. Luckily, there are ways to help students learn to speak and be heard without becoming nervous.
Although the cell phone is often seen as a distraction in school, it can be utilized as the ultimate tool for public speaking training. The key is to start small. When students have to read in front of the classroom, let them first record themselves with their phone (this can be audio only or on video). Then they should go back and analyze the recording. What words did they slow down on or struggle with? Did they hesitate at a certain point? This an opportunity for students to listen to themselves and find areas of improvement. The key is practicing often so students get used to hearing themselves in the recording. Hearing their own voices takes away from the mystery and uncertainty of what it sounds like to an audience.
Students also need to learn they can’t just read from a paper, but instead should really engage the audience. Building interactive presentations on tablets can help remove the fear of speaking directly to others. Depending on the topic, required students to prepare visuals to show to their audience (could be projected on a screen). It naturally breaks up the speech and gives them time to calm and compose themselves mid-presentation. Students can also use tablets for digital notes to keep them on track in case they do falter. The key is using the technology as a safety net and a reminder that they have all the information they need at their fingertips.
Most importantly, today’s technology provides an easy way to record the presentation for further analysis. Students can continually look for ways to improve and add interest to their speeches. Remind students that public speaking takes years of practice and even the most seasoned speakers get the jitters before an event. It’s best to take a proactive approach where you look honestly at yourself to see where you can improve.