I think we can all agree, that as students, public speaking is one of the most dreaded aspects of any class. Whether it's a two-minute speech or a 15-minute speech -- we don't want to do it! However, we can all also agree that the ability to be a good public speaker is extremely important, especially in the professional world. So, of course, one of Ball State University's required core classes is a public speaking course: COMM 210. Having to take this course frustrates students and fills them with as much dread as finding out you still need to take gym (aka PFW)!
Nevertheless, I am here to help! As I am currently enrolled in COMM 210 and finishing my last speech this week, I felt that an article like this would have been nice to read before taking the class. Luckily, my roommate had taken the class last semester, so I had an idea of the content and difficulty of the class. I decided to compile a list of pieces of advice for the class for other students about to take this course in the coming semesters. Some of my friends who have also taken this course have added to this list as well!
Public speaking has never been my thing. I am introverted and dislike having all eyes on me. Knowing I had to take this course to graduate was very nerve-racking because normally I'm fine giving presentations when it's more based on the content and I feel okay if I were to mess up on my delivery. However, when my presentation grades are more based on the delivery as well as the structure of the content, I don't feel as confident. (Hence the need for this class, I guess.)
In high school, I had given many presentations...some 10 to 15 minutes long...so finding out the longest speech in COMM 210 is six to eight minutes I felt more at ease. Sadly, my issue has always been going too in depth and when I practiced my speeches I ended up always have to cut up to three or four minutes of information to stay in the time limit to avoid getting points deducted (which is frustrating and another rant in itself). And although my friends always say my presentations go so well, I am a very anxious public speaker. I gave an important speech at the end of my junior year of high school in one of my classes and my tongue literally went numb during it. But no matter how much I focus on my anxious body language or feel that my voice is shaky, no one else can see those behaviors when I present. Mostly because I practice so much beforehand to avoid ever making a fool of myself.
COMM 210 has really helped me work past my preoccupation with speech anxiety because if you are confident in your presentation it will come across and a majority of the time the class is just interested in your content not necessarily noticing all the little things that you feel are going wrong. Most times they don't even know if you messed up or said something different or skipped a few things because this is the first time they're hearing it, so if you don't acknowledge your hiccups they won't even notice they're there in the first place!
Fortunately, you only have to give a total of four speeches in this class: demonstration, informative, Monroe, and persuasive. However, there are multiple components to each speech which can be seen as excessive and time-consuming, so that's just something to keep in mind. Also, one main thing I know students may fear is who their audience will be. You do have a large lecture class once a week in Prius Hall that is around 500 students and then you also have a smaller discussion portion of the course on different days of the week (or just one day depending on what section you scheduled). This discussion section will be a normal size classroom setting and this is the class that will be your audience for your speeches.
Now that we've gone over a brief overview of the course, let's get into the advice I've compiled for future students taking this course and how to survive the semester!
1. Time management.
It is so important to stay on top of the work, especially for all the components of the speeches because if you don't turn in even one part it can knock a good portion out of your grade for that speech. Try to work on speeches ahead of time, so you aren't cramming -- these aren't speeches that can be easily done the night before. Also, don't sleep on the Out of Class Speaker Critique. Get that done ASAP. It takes longer than you would think and you want to find a speaker you're actually interested in listening to.
Along with time management, it's also very important to prioritize and recognize the course load at times. I always work best on projects during the weekends and struggle to be productive on them during the week as I like to just throw myself into the work for hours on end (which definitely isn't the most productive, but I always get my stuff done)! But you have to learn when to say no to things in order to put a good effort into your speeches. Outlines take a long time (at least they did for me, I don't know for others), so I would set aside a whole Saturday just to work on my outlines. One time that meant staying in and saying no to hanging out with friends to be able to finish my outline on the day I had said I wanted to in order to stay on top of things. I ended up finishing it at 1:30 a.m. but I needed that time set aside to dive into the work and get it done, and I was so thankful the next day that I did that because I don't believe I would have been able to get everything done for that speech by my presentation day otherwise.
3. Pick a topic you're interested in.
You will be putting in a lot of work and research into your speeches, so make sure you pick something you're passionate about or at least a topic you're interested in working with for a couple of weeks. Also, if you're into a topic when you're presenting that genuine interest in your speech will come across! There aren't too many restricted topics, so make it creative and have fun with it! If you're struggling to find a topic, look on Pinterest, ask friends or family for ideas or see what other students may have done in the past and put your own spin on it.
4. Practice, practice, practice.
For each speech, you have to turn in a speech log. While it's easy to BS these, it is to your benefit to complete them honestly and truly try to practice as many times as you can before presenting. Not only will your grades thank you, but it's also nice for your classmates to watch a prepared, well-thought-out speech. Watching someone struggle giving a presentation isn't a pleasant experience for anyone. We all want you to do your best, so put your best foot forward and practice!!
5. Present ASAP.
One aspect I love about this course is that you get to choose when to present. What weel, what day, what order. I personally like to present as soon as possible because I want to get it over with (which I highly recommend!) and, also, because I get more anxious the more speeches I have to watch before I present. But it's also important to take into account how much time you think you'll need to prepare for that specific speech in order to complete it at its fullest potential. The first speech I presented on the first day because it was a shorter speech which I finished quite quickly compared to the others and felt ready for (also I wanted to get it out of the way). But for the two middle speeches, I put more effort into constructing them and had more research and practicing to do, so I signed up for a later presentation date so that I didn't feel like I had to cram and also so I didn't become too stressed about it.
6. Embrace the awkwardness.
My least favorite part: Video analysis. Yes, they make you watch your speech afterward and critique yourself! It's awkward and cringy, but it's also reassuring that you didn't look as uncomfortable or fidgety as you thought. You may notice that your voice projected or you had good gestures or you had good pacing and voice inflection. You don't always have to think about all that went wrong because it helps you see the good in your speeches and makes you feel more confident while helping you find what you need to work on. Still, not a big fan of this aspect of the course, but I see their reasoning.
Also, with how they want you to structure your speeches, it is very straight forward which I had always been taught to make transitions and parts similar to them more elegant and less "basic," but that is what they want. So do it. They will continue to mark it on your rubric to encourage you to say "first, second, third, etc." This kind of makes outlining easier, but also I find those "basic" transitions awkward since I've always been directed away from using them in the past.
7. Make sure you turn everything in.
As I mentioned earlier, there are many components to each speech. Many of them you need to turn in online and print out to turn in with your speech folder. So it's important to have everything done, but also equally important to make sure you properly turn everything into where it needs to be by the day you present. Part of your speech grade is based on preparation and what's in your speech folder: your outline, notecards, audience analysis (for the last two speeches), practice log, evaluation rubric. Make sure you have everything done! So many people can lose points on their speeches just because of these things before they even start to grade you off your speech. It's basically free points toward your speech grade, so don't be careless with these!
8. Don't overthink it.
It's not as intense as it is intimidating. You will hear them say it at the beginning of the semester, but you could literally not give the first speech and still past the course, so if you do give the first speech you have even less pressure since you have those points. They also do systematic desensitization, so each speech progressively is worth more points. But I didn't even focus on the points per speech because at the end of the day you still have to give a speech and it's the same process for each. So don't pressure yourself and get in your head that the last speech is worth more than the final because that's self-destructive (unless you work well under that kind of pressure). Take the workload seriously and try in the class, but don't stress yourself out -- it's just four speeches and two tests (midterm and final). You got this! Don't be too hard on yourself!
9. It'll be over before you know it.
I dreaded this course with a burning passion. It may feel like you're drowning in work for a speech that your classmates may only see for three minutes that you spent days on, but it'll all be fine. This semester honestly went by so fast. And with only having to give four speeches, it was nice to be able to gauge the semester by how many we had completed! Looking back, yes it was a lot of work at times, but I definitely didn't need to be as intimidated or scared as I was at the beginning of the semester and I feel more comfortable giving the speeches. My discussion class was filled with great people -- find friends to struggle with it! It makes it more fun and less annoying.
At the end of the day, it's just one class. You have four years to enjoy. Don't lose your mind over it. If you still aren't a boss at public speaking after the course (I certainly am not), don't worry because we all still have room for improvement! I would be lying if I said I would miss this class, but I'm happy that I don't have to worry about taking it anymore! Getting this class over with as early as you can in your four-year plan would be ideal. Don't put it off.
Good luck, Cardinals!