Public speaking. Two words that if you’re not a natural public speaker, reduce most students to a nervous wreck. However, you can’t escape presentations and speeches at uni, and learning how to master them now will do you the world of good in the future.

And besides, don’t deny it – we all fantasise about giving our very own TED talk from time to time. Here are the tips necessary to elevate your speeches and get them one step closer to being TED Talk caliber. 

  • It sounds simple enough but merely familiarising yourself with your material will make a world of difference. If you know your speech well, you’re more likely to deliver it with an engaging conversational flow that will hold attention better. Knowing your speech well will also minimise the agonising pauses and mental blanks, the “umms”, “likes”, and other filler words. This will give you more confidence by simply feeling prepared, however this doesn’t mean memorising it completely and leaving no wriggle room, leading on to our next point.
  • Don’t read your speech as if from a script – leave some space to ad lib. This will prevent you from sounding monotonous and insincere, as changing up tone and energy is more charismatic and engaging. A study on the persuasiveness of TED Talks supports this, finding that “The more vocal variety a speaker had, the more views they got. More vocal variety also correlated with higher charisma and credibility ratings”[1].
  • Holding eye contact will make you seem more confident in your material. Find a few key people in the audience to lock eyes with and use them as your fixture - Work the room as "If you're making eye contact with a friendly person in quadrant one, everyone to their left will think that you're talking to them…Then do the same thing in quadrant two…You want to see your talk as a series of conversations with different people throughout the room."[2]
  • Give your speech an interesting angle. No one wants to listen to a bland, run-of-the-mill speech – and most importantly no tutor wants to give one a High Distinction.  Position your speech so that it’s offering a solution to a problem or present it in a storytelling manner. This will not only engage the audience more and it make it memorable, it will also roll off the tongue easier. For example, lead with a personal anecdote, or ask a question of your audience and position your subject matter as the answer, this will also serve to hook your audience quickly and leave them rapt to attention.
  • It may not always be possible, especially if you’re studying a particularly dull subject this semester, but try to be passionate about the content of your speech. And if you’re not, fake it till you make it. If you speak with conviction and sound interested in what you’re saying, your classmates (and your tutor) are more likely to do so too.
  • This should come easy for all the TED talk fans, but a simple way to elevate your speeches is to watch inspiring speakers and take note of what makes a speech so engaging. It’s an easy and inspiring way to learn from some of the best speakers in the game – take note of humour, non-verbal communication cues such as hand gestures and moving confidently around the stage, and even just the passion for their subject matter. Mimic some of the characteristics of these speeches and habits of the speakers and you’ll ooze charisma in no time. In particular, some useful TED talks to check out are; ‘How to speak so people want to listen’  and ‘Best TED talks of 2016 so far’
  • Speak slowly and loudly. Nothing will communicate insecurity like rushing through your speech and speaking barely above whisper. As well, your tutor is unlikely to be able to hear exactly what you're saying and you could lose precious marks. Speeding up your presentation is a definite drawback when you've got a minimum time to fill, speaking slowly will not only communicate confidence it will also make the "minimum 10 minutes” of your oral presentation fly by.
  • It’s not what you say it’s how you say it. Body language is crucial to the success of your speech. Stand up straight, take command of the space you’re in, and use hand gestures accordingly. Be conscious of nervous body language as well, to make sure you’re not projecting insecurity, such as fidgeting, crossing and uncrossing your arms and pacing.

So utilise these simple steps to alleviate the dread and get you one step closer to the TED stage.