A Request for Public Speaking Tips

By Dr. Robert Wallace

February 11, 2020 5 min read

DR. WALLACE: I'm enrolled in a public speaking class at the University of Iowa, and I really enjoy the class. I've always been nervous about giving oral reports, and that's why I'm taking this particular class. I'm scheduled to give my first speech in front of the class in a couple of weeks. I know my material well — it's about being kind and compassionate to animals, because I want to become a veterinarian someday — but I feel uncomfortable about the formal presentation.

I know that you speak to a lot of different audiences, and I would like to hear any good advice you could give me about public speaking. Our instructor has given us tips on how to present a successful speech, but you may have one or two that are not on his list. I really enjoy this class and want to do my best, and I really need an A! — Nervous Speaker, Ames, Iowa

NERVOUS SPEAKER: Indeed, I have been asked to speak before many groups, ranging in sizes from 22 people to more than 3,000. But regardless of the audience's size, I'm always just a touch nervous before speaking. However, I find that once my speech is underway, the butterflies go away, and I relax and find a nice rhythm.

I also enjoyed taking a public speaking class one semester at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Indiana. That class helped prepare me to speak despite a touch of nervousness. Here are the techniques I've picked up along the way. Good luck to you!

— Never memorize a speech, but know your subject matter well.

— Use notecards whenever possible. Keywords and ideas should be printed in easy-to-read form. Use bullet points, not complete sentences.

— Practice in front of a mirror, looking yourself in the eye as you speak.

— Know as much about your audience as possible in advance. This will subconsciously help you relax.

— Keep constant eye contact with the audience, but do look to your left and right occasionally as you speak.

— Whenever possible, use a rostrum.

— Don't consume food for two hours before speaking. Never consume coffee, tea or soft drinks before speaking. Drink water or a light juice only.

— If you make a grammatical mistake or a misstatement, correct yourself immediately, do not apologize and simply carry on. Your audience knows you are human, and they also know it takes great fortitude and courage to speak publicly.


DR. WALLACE: I'm so sad that my very best friend is moving to another state at the end of this school year. She and I met in elementary school, and now we are both sophomores in high school. We do everything together! We study together and we both have similar hobbies in food, boys and fashion.

I feel a bit depressed that she will be 1,000 miles away and it will be really hard to see her ever again. We are using our time now as much as possible, but I am dreading this summer. Her family already has a deal in place to buy a new house in their new state.

What can I do? — Heartbroken Friend, via email

HEARTBROKEN FRIEND: I agree that you girls should enjoy your time together as much as possible from now until the end of this school year. But don't despair! You girls are luckier than it appears on the surface.

In this day and age, you ladies have the advantage of technology and social media. Years ago, you would have had a much harder time keeping in touch with 1,000 miles and several state lines in between you.

You will have Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and your cellphones to keep in touch. I trust you will text each other often once she moves. No, it won't be the same during the next school year, but you will find a new best friend at your school, and you will be able to keep in touch with your lifelong friend, too. In a few short years, you each might be off to college, and there's always a chance you could attend the same university then.

The great news is that you will always cherish the friendship you've had with your best friend. I trust it will continue for many decades into the future.

Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: Broesis at Pixabay

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