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Professional Development: Perfecting Your Public Speaking Skills

Dianna is a writer with a background in education and business. She writes to inspire and encourage others.

Public Speaking In The Classroom

Self-Introductory speeches are the easiest to present as the speaker is knowledgeable about the subject (and a bit passionate!).

Self-Introductory speeches are the easiest to present as the speaker is knowledgeable about the subject (and a bit passionate!).

The Purpose of Public Speaking

I remember my first public speaking experience from fourth grade at Lincoln School Elementary. Our class assignment was to read a bibliography, complete a book report and to share the highlights of the book with the class. I was fine with the first two parts but the oral report was one that had me tossing and turning the night before my simple, crude, short speech. Before presenting my report, my stomach hurt, my head ached and my throat was so dry. I thought I was going to faint from the experience. My sister had done this last year in the class when it was her turn, and so I thought maybe it was a family tradition for me to set for my little sister following in a couple of years. In the end, I stumbled through it without significant incidence (Thank God!).

Jerry Seinfeld is quoted as saying he would rather be the person in the coffin than to give the eulogy at a funeral. This statement comes from someone who is before audiences almost every day as an entertainer. What we call stage fright is common and has been studied by psychologists, sociologists, medical experts and theater and drama. Public Speaking is communication vital to our sharing of knowledge, and influencing others on important topics and beliefs.

Public Speaking is taught as part of Professional Development in college to prepare students for the times when they may be called upon to present their views to an audience. They must be prepared to speak eloquently, knowledgeably, and with professionalism. Oral communication is intended to influence, persuade or to inform an audience and one must know their audience in order to present well. A public speaker will know how to communicate effectively to different audiences and must remember to make arguments or to present in such a manner as to make the speech relevant and valuable to the listener. For a student, knowing how to speak in public well will not only help them on special occasions, but to communicate information clearly and effectively when on the job and in their future leadership roles.

“According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Jerry Seinfeld

Top 10 Phobias: Public Speaking is No. 5


Spiders (Arachnophobia)


Open/Crowded Places (Agoraphobia)


Heights (Acrophobia)




Public Speaking (Glossophobia)


Needles (Aichmophobia)


Flying (Aviatophobia)`


Death (Thanatophobia)




Germs (Mysophobia)



Public Speaking To Inform

This module I am teaching students Public Speaking, and in planning I thought it would be a great learning activity to have them engage in a project leading to the understanding of how to give an Informative Speech on processes. The project began with making a simple Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich (PBJ). In general, Informative Speeches convey knowledge and understanding of a topic and having to construct a topic from the beginning would prove beneficial in organizing their thoughts. The basic types of informational speeches are events, objects, processes (or "how to") and concepts. Putting a speech together is similar to writing a recipe and so the PBJ project gave them added insight as to how to make their speech meaningful.

Their objectives were:

  1. To understand how a PBJ is made
  2. Write the processes for making "the best PBJ sandwich"
  3. Create a simple Powerpoint slide presentation highlighting only key points (2 slides total)
  4. To inform the audience on the series of actions needed to create a PBJ.

Organization is important in speeches about processes and speakers must ensure each step is clear, easy to follow and engaging. Additionally, a speaker must not assume that their audience is aware or knowledgeable about the topic and explaining the details, such as what PBJ means, will help them to relate to the topic.

In this speech project, students were encouraged to personalize their speech with a little humor. Since it was their first formal speech, most students kept their jokes simple in order to present safely and effectively. Humor is helpful in speeches because it helps everyone to relax and sets an environment of goodwill favorable to communication.

Sample Joke for Opening Speech

What do you call a chicken with no legs?

The final speech presentation on "How To Make A PBJ Sandwich" was very informative.

The final speech presentation on "How To Make A PBJ Sandwich" was very informative.

Cast Your Vote!

Polishing Your Public Speaking Skills

According to the World Health Organization, seventy-five percent (75%) of the world population suffers from speech anxiety. High profile people, such as politicians, doctors, lawyers and actors experience stage fright just before making a presentation speech. Eighty-one percent of business executives state public speaking is the most nerve-wracking experience they face (source: Birmingham Post, Aug. 25, 2003; Public Speaking Tests The Nerves of Most Directors, D. Jones).

I stress to my students that the fear of public speaking is reduced by preparation and practice. Prepare, prepare, prepare and practice, practice, practice! As I stated earlier, nervousness is normal when preparing to speak publicly, but knowing how to minimize the effect on your presentation will help you to communicate effectively. I provide many in-class speech opportunities to help them gain experience and confidence . They relax as they learn the basics of public speaking and gain the support of their fellow classmates.

Other tips in public speaking are to think positively, remember that the message should be the focus of your speech and not you. Visualizing yourself as giving a successful speech will help to overcome the negativity of speech making. I also tell them to take a few deep breaths before taking the spotlight and to remember that no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and your audience wants you to succeed. As my piano teacher used to say, "practice makes perfect over time."

Answer to joke: An egg!

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© 2012 Dianna Mendez


Alexis K Ellis 37 on June 13, 2020:

Ms. Mendez,

I really enjoyed your article because I always had a fear of public speaking and speaking to people socially as well. This article gave me insight especially when you stated to concentrate on the message and not yourself. Really appreciate your article.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 24, 2013:

Rajan, preparation and practice is the only way to improve public speaking skills. Thanks for your support of this method. Enjoy your week, friend.

Mperrottet, I would have loved to taking the Carnegie course. I hear it is excellent and produces great results, as you have proved with your success. Thanks for the input and enjoy your week. It was good to see you here today.

Tom, we partner with Toastmasters at the college and the students reap so much benefit from their workshops. Thanks for recommending it to others. I will have to look into that DVD for my class. Have a wonderful evening!

Tom Schumacher from Huntington Beach, CA on March 24, 2013:

Nice hub! For those truly interested in improving their public speaking skills I recommended joining Toastmasters. Here's the link to find a club in your locality: Also, here's a DVD you can purchase to begin today: Voted up!

Margaret Perrottet from San Antonio, FL on March 24, 2013:

I was always terrified of speaking in public. I had to do presentations in my job, and so finally at age 35 I took a Dale Carnegie course. The main reason that course helped me so much is that I had to get up week after week and give a speech. After that, although I never enjoyed public speaking, I was at least able to do presentations without getting overwhelmed with anxiety. So you're right - practice and more practice. Good hub, voted up, useful, interesting and sharing.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 23, 2013:

Some practical ideas here but yes prepare and practice is the best. A very informative read. Voted up, useful and shared.

Dianna Mendez (author) on January 11, 2013:

Thanks, Pinkchic, for your visit and comment. I really enjoyed writing this one as the students are dedicated. Enjoy your day.

Sarah Carlsley from Minnesota on January 11, 2013:

Nice article here, and great tips!

Dianna Mendez (author) on November 20, 2012:

2besure, I agree - it should be above spiders, my students would agree! Thanks for your visit and support. Happy Thanksgiving!

Pamela Lipscomb from Charlotte, North Carolina on November 19, 2012:

Public speaking can be terrifying even when you are good at it. I would have thought it would be above fear of spiders! Voted up!

Dianna Mendez (author) on October 30, 2012:

The first time I had to speak in front an an audience was in upper elementary. It was a simple book report, but at ten years old -- it was a major speech! I stumbled through it somehow. Yes, thankfull we have overcome those hurdles. Enjoyed your visit and take care.

Mike Robbers from London on October 29, 2012:

I still remember how scared I was in high school when I had to talk in front of the class! Hopefully, I got over it over time :) Thanks for the hub [voted up]

Dianna Mendez (author) on October 29, 2012:

Shruti, thank you for commenting and your positive support. These practices are solid and will help people to put forth their best image. Stay well and safe.

shruti sheshadri from Bangalore, India on October 28, 2012:

Beautifully written dianna! I completely agree with your views of practicing. It definitely makes us perfect!

voted up and shared :)

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 19, 2012:

You really did have some great speech application that proved useful. Yes, the more you practice the confidence will build so that you can speak with clarity and meaning. Thanks for the added value, Alocsin.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on September 18, 2012:

I totally agree with "practice, practice, practice." I used to be deathly afraid of speaking in public, but I had a job that forced me to do that several times a day, as an interpreter in a science museum. All that repetition got me over my fear so now I actually enjoy it. Voting this Up and Useful.

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 11, 2012:

You have added so much to this hub topic with your sharing from experience. I wish I could have you speak to my class tonight! The one thing I preach to students is what you echoed: prepare & practice. It makes a big difference in the delivery. God bless you, Sparklea.

Sparklea from Upstate New York on September 11, 2012:

Teaches12345: Voted UP, useful and interesting! I was a member of Toastmasters International for 16 years, so I think I have made every mistake one could make in front of an biggest blunder being going totally blank in the middle of a contest where the area governor sat in the audience. I don't know if I have ever totally recovered from that!

Your hub was extremely informative, LOVE the peanut butter and jelly example~also, said it so well, PLUS PRACTICE. The nerves are so much more controlled when a speaker is prepared and ready.

I believe public speaking is one of the greatest lessons that everyone should learn. To conquer the fear of giving a speech is, indeed, one of the greatest accomplishments.

Thank you for the valuable information you provided in this extremely useful hub. Blessings, Sparklea :)

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 08, 2012:

Lady E, finally, someone who got the joke! Visuals, like slides, charts, etc. do help to divert the focus throughout a speech, but all eyes always come back to you. Yikes! I agree with you that some people need to liven up their speech a bit. I think I may have attended some of those with you. Take care, friend.

Elena from London, UK on September 08, 2012:

Ha ha... I liked the Joke.

Very interesting and useful Hub. I started teaching about 10 years ago and got very nervous. I did a test teaching with some of my friends and then while practicing teaching, I asked them why they were looking at me and not the board. lol. If I could talk from under the table I would. Too shy then.

This Hub was useful to read. There is always room for improvement. I particularly picked up on "Engaging." That must be why some people fall asleep during Public Talks....Thanks.

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 07, 2012:

Millionaire, I wish you could come speak to my speech class this week. Hearing about your experience would really be comforting to them. As it is, I will mention this to them. Thanks for sharing and for the value added to the hub topic. Enjoy your weekend, friend.

Shasta Matova from USA on September 07, 2012:

I used to be terrified of public speaking too - just the thought of people watching me while I was talking was so horrible. But in my working life, I have to talk to groups all the time. I now think of it as conveying information to more than one person. Just like telling one person isn't scary, telling a group isn't either. As long as I keep the focus on what I am saying (and make sure I really know the material), then it isn't about me. The audience in this case is trying to learn the material, not trying to judge how well I presented it, like they would be in school.

These are excellent tips on how to reduce your stage fright, and a great exercise to try to get some practice. Voted up.

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 31, 2012:

Vinaya, you are not alone in your desire to speak well publicly. It takes patience and practice. I am sure that with this in mind, you will do very well. Thanks for your visit here and support. Enjoy your weekend.

Lightshare, thank you for stopping by and glad you found it interesting here. Be careful out there.

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on August 31, 2012:

Since many years I have been trying to be a public speaker, but in vain. Thanks for this wonderful hub. Now I know what is my exact problem.

Lightshare on August 31, 2012:

Thanks teacher for steps -)

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 30, 2012:

Dwachira, I have experienced what you shared, many college freshman have difficulty communicating their thoughts well in public. It is rewarding to see them blossom as they continue on through the course. Thank you for sharing this with others and for your supportive votes. Enjoy your evening.

Danson Wachira from Nairobi, Kenya on August 30, 2012:

Being able to speak in public is a very important aspect of communication because as you did put it here, it help individuals to deliver information clearly and effectively. As a lecturer in a public institution, i find many of my students especially first years (Freshers) having problem in public speaking and it becomes worse when they have social-academic problems but cannot express themselves. This is for sure a very useful article and am going to share it with my colleagues. Voted up and useful.

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 28, 2012:

Lindacee, what a privilege to be asked to speak! I would love to hear it. Prep & practice will help you build confidence. Appreciate your visit. Enjoy your day.

Linda Chechar from Arizona on August 28, 2012:

Teaches, I heard somewhere that people are more frightened of public speaking than of death! I might just be right up there with that statistic.

I have an upcoming casual speaking engagement. I have to say, I'm not looking forward to it. Thanks for sharing these tips. I will refer to your Hub again as I prepare, prepare, prepare and practice, practice, practice! :)

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 27, 2012:

Fascinating, Frog Prince! I would love to hear about one of those times and your story of present day success. Maybe a hub? Thanks for your support, it means much to me.

The Frog Prince from Arlington, TX on August 27, 2012:

During my military career I was thrust into various assignments where I had to overcome the fear of large audiences and just let it rip. I now have the ability to communicate on many levels because of that exposure.

Great Hub and sound advice.

The Frog

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 27, 2012:

Ruchira, the PBJ's were a hit as research for the speech project, but it was also fun to eat afterwards! I really appreciate your stopping by here and thank you for the votes of support. Take care.

Ruchira from United States on August 27, 2012:

well said indeed, teaches12345. You are a big source of ignition of ideas and I liked the PBJ sandwich presentation. That will help crack the iceberg for public speaking.

voted up as interesting and useful. sharing it across.

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 27, 2012:

Eddy, you were fortunate to have speaking opportunities so young. Many parents do not realize how important it is to foster this in children so that they are confident when they reach the higher grades and enter the working world. My compliments to your parents for being so supportive.

Eddy Jones from Wales. on August 27, 2012:

When we were small my sister and I went to many many Eisteddfodau. These are welsh talent competitions and Val would sing or play the piano and I would recite.

Although I don't have a lot of good memories about our childhood I have never forgotten standing on stage reciting in front of a congregation and this stays with me forever.

This was a wonderful read teaches and here's to so many more from you.


Dianna Mendez (author) on August 26, 2012:

I know I would have benefited from speech class in my early high school years. Practice is what builds confidence, Vocalcoach. Your thoughts are right on and valued here.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on August 26, 2012:

I love your hub and I love PBJ. You are an amazing teacher my friend. You have given the best advice on overcoming fear - practice, practice, practice. A Public Speaking Class should be mandatory for every student. Thank you for sharing your valuable expertise.

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 26, 2012:

Whonu, I am reinforcing your thoughts to my class tomorrow. Thanks for your support on the topic. Have a safe and happy day friend.

whonunuwho from United States on August 26, 2012:

Public speaking is vital part of college and later life as a professional. It is basic and a need for every student to learn from high school, through college and later in the work place. Nice hub.

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 26, 2012:

Jainismus, your visits are always a great welcome and valued! Enjoy your day's journey friend.

Mahaveer Sanglikar from Pune, India on August 26, 2012:

It is a very useful article, thank you for sharing the tips. Voted up and shared..

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 26, 2012:

Getting through the first minute is most of the hurdle in delivery. Thanks for your add to the subject, Christy. Always a pleasure when you visit.

Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on August 26, 2012:

I find that the hardest part is when I first walk in the room. I used to give presentations and found that once I started speaking I was fine. The nerves were all beforehand! Good hub that I vote up and am sharing too.

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 26, 2012:

It's great to hear how a college course helped someone with public speaking. Thanks for the support of the topic. Blessings to you, Cleaner3.

cleaner3 from Pueblo, Colorado on August 26, 2012:

teaches, I had a hard time speaking in front of a crowd of people ,but after taking a public speaking class in college, it helped tremendously. your hub is very good for all who need confidence in facing the rigors of public speaking.

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 26, 2012:

Pointe2make, great add to the hub for those who need some positive encouragement. I will mention your ideas in class tomorrow as well. Too bad you cannot come and present as well! Thanks.

point2make on August 26, 2012:

What a great hub....I enjoyed it very much. Public speaking can be a difficult and frightening chore but I have found that if you know your material you have half the battle won. Knowledge will bring confidence and confidence will help soothe the nerves. It is however true that not all of us are comfortable making presentations to large or small groups....even if we know our "stuff". Many public speakers use several different "tricks" to help them get over the beginning nerves. For myself, no matter how large the audience, I begin my presentation directing my comments to the table or people immediately in front of me. As I begin to feel more comfortable I increase my focus to include more of the audience until I am, soon,speaking to everyone. I usually reach that stage within a minute or two and then the "jitters" are gone and I can enjoy myself and interact with my audience more comfortably. Voted this hub up!

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 26, 2012:

Oh my, you poor thing! I can relate. I did the same thing at my first piano recital. It's a challenge for sure- writing is much more comfortable. Thanks for your visit and support. Enjoy your day, Cardisa.

Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on August 26, 2012:

Peanut butter jelly sandwiches, my favorite! Wish I was in your class. I remember having to sing or perform in from of people and my heart would race, my knees would feel so weak and my voice would crack. I ran off the stage at one time in high school, I never lived that

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 26, 2012:

Faith, your comment is of comfort to many out there who believe there is no hope in getting over stage fright. It is amazing how our present life does build upon the past weaknesses if we turn them into positives. Yes, God is good in helping us to overcome fears. Thanks for your added insight on the topic. Blessings.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on August 25, 2012:

I remember my speech class, as I was the queen of the "um" and "long pauses." Although we had many hair twirlers and rockers of the podiums. I have conquered my fear of public speaking, as I was so terribly shy when I was young, and everyone I know now, just really does not believe that I was ever that shy! Ha. God showed me the person He really meant for me to be. Great hub. In His Love, Faith Reaper

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on August 25, 2012:

No worries, teaches, I can laugh now because my world doesn't require me to be a public speaker, thank goodness! :)

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 25, 2012:

Vellur, practice is what I preach to the students. It is the best way to become confident in your speaking before people. Thanks for your visit and added insight. Take care, dear friend.

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 25, 2012:

Mhatter, with your sense of humor and great wit -- I'll bet you were a fascinating speaker! thanks for stopping by.

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 25, 2012:

Mama Kim, you are not alone, I also hated to speak in front of my classmates. How dreadful! Thanks for sharing and voting.

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 25, 2012:

Drbj, I will look into your hub post. I will use it in my class this week for sure! Please, link away! I will do the same. Thanks for visiting.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on August 25, 2012:

Public Speaking can be perfected with practice, practice and more practice. So true. Great hub with pointers on overcoming the fear of public speaking. Very useful.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on August 25, 2012:

Good article! I wish you could have seen me. I was a ritualist for the masons. The general public work I did was 247 funerals, my fund raisers and my introduction to freemasonry.

Aloe Kim on August 25, 2012:

Oh I wish I read this hub when I was still in school. I was a loner to begin with so when I had to speak in front of the class I felt sick...

I will definitely pass this on to my brother and his friends. They're going to be sophomores this year ^_^ voted up as well.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on August 25, 2012:

Hi teaches, this is excellent, realistic and very helpful information for anyone who needs more self-confidence in front of an audience. And I ought to know. Been making speeches for years. Still do. You might want to take a look at my hub, "How to Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking," which I will link to this one with your permission.

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 25, 2012:

KBE, exactly - the more exposure and practice, the more you become confident in speaking before an audience. I'll bet teaching Brazilian Jiu-jitsu really has the audience engaged when you speak! Thanks for your visit and for the feedback.

Kenneth Brown from United States on August 25, 2012:

Yeah, practice really makes the most difference. There have been times when I've felt some nervous speaking but it has been completed diluted by all the times that I've had present in classes or teach Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 25, 2012:

Terrye, sorry, but I am having a "sympathetic laugh" on your shared speech experience. I have had students drop the class just before the final big speech due to nerves. It is scary. Enjoy your day and keep safe.

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on August 25, 2012:

Great hub, teaches! I was forced to take several public speaking classes in college and hated it. Being an introvert, panic doesn't even describe the internal terror I experience when I have to go into a room full of people. It's not as bad if I know them, but it's still tough! I actually took a 2 grade drop because one prof offered it instead of forcing me to speak in front of the class. So, I walked out with a C, I didn't care, I passed and I didn't have to have nightmares. :) Voted up and more!

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 25, 2012:

Janine, college really challenged my speaking ability as well. It seemed like every course had presentations! Thanks for coming in to read this and for your sharing. Blessings!

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on August 25, 2012:

Very informative hub article on a great topic. Being a teacher, I now have no issue speaking in public, but back in my college days I was petrified. So take it from some one who has been there, I do agree practice totally helps. Seriously Dianna, the PBJ example was perfect and such a wonderful way to teach this basic concept. Have of course voted, shared and tweeted too!

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 25, 2012:

RTalloni, I forgot about honey on PBJ's! It is another great option and one that will add to the nutritional value of it. Public speaking is a skill that is really important these days as employers expect their staff to communicate well. Thanks for the add to the content.

Molly, I agree! Having someone write your speech for you saves time, you only have to practice it to convey your thoughts. Great comment!

Pamela, I think most of can remember back when we were children and had to speak in front of people. Boy, was that every scary! Glad you have got a good handle on how to do this - I'm sure you present some really fascinating discussions.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 25, 2012:

This is a very interesting hub on speaking to an audience. I think you are doing a great service to the children to teach them these skills. I used to be anxious before speaking when I was young, but I've taught a lot of classes and am fairly comfortable now. Up, useful and interesting.

Mary Strain from The Shire on August 25, 2012:

Some claim that speechwriting is the most lucrative form of writing, because people are so terrified of public speaking that they're willing to pay handsomely for help with a speech.

Interesting and useful!

RTalloni on August 25, 2012:

A great look at developing public speaking skills. Being able to speak publicly with composure because one has prepared to share important information is so important to teach! Simply teaching people the value of learning the skills required can be a huge task. Super post!

Oh, I almost forgot--I like honey and peanut butter rather than jelly.

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 25, 2012:

You are one of those special people with confidence and know that the message is what is most important when speaking. Wish I could get you to come share with my class! Thanks for your visit and vote.

carol stanley from Arizona on August 25, 2012:

I know lots of people go into panic mode in front of an audience. I am not sure why I don't. I was in front of audiences for many years, and loved it. Sometimes I didn't even plan my talk...go figure. You have some great ideas here..Voted UP.