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Public Speaking Tips for Teachers and Educators

A teacher stands in front of a microphone.

Inside and outside the classroom, in person or online, teachers are already public speakers. In 2019, educators, trainers, and librarians represented 11 percent of the total membership of Toastmasters, a worldwide public speaking organization.

What common occasions call for educators to speak publicly, and what public speaking tips can they follow to develop their skills?

To learn more, check out the infographic below, created by American University’s School of Education.

Public Speaking: A Key Skill for Teachers

Whether they’re engaging a classroom of daydreamers, projecting warmth in a virtual lesson, or connecting with diverse learners, teachers rely on public speaking skills and strive to hone them.

Public Speaking in the Classroom

Presenting in person involves inviting student participation. One way of engaging students includes remembering their short attention spans by limiting your presentation’s length. Deliver short mini-lessons frequently instead of one extended lecture.

Other ways to present material to students actively and engagingly are storytelling; shaping your presentation in response to in-the-moment student feedback; and breaking up lectures with questions, quizzes, and games.

For teachers who are presenting to an online classroom through a virtual platform, the following tips can help instructors and students connect:

  • Welcome students with personal greetings and questions.
  • Position your camera high and look directly into it.
  • Use screen sharing and chat for variety and engagement.
  • Stand when speaking to help you project.

Public Speaking Beyond the Classroom

A common public speaking task outside the classroom is introducing people, such as speakers or award recipients. Accepting awards and presenting academic papers are other common public speaking tasks for teachers.

Introducing Speakers and Presenting and Accepting Awards

When introducing speakers, the presenter should establish the speaker’s credentials but keep remarks about them and their topic brief. When presenting an award, the speaker should formally introduce the recipient first, before calling them to the podium. Speakers can also highlight the importance of the award and its recipient by telling a brief story.

Good advice for people who are accepting an award is to rehearse their remarks with a timer beforehand — to ensure they keep them short. Additionally, award recipients should speak personably, conveying modesty and gratitude.

Presenting at Academic Conferences

When sharing their research at academic conferences, presenters should show enthusiasm for their work. They should remember to keep their remarks at a level people unfamiliar with the topic can understand.

Public Speaking Tips: Preparation

Preparation gives public speakers confidence. First, speakers should confront the natural fear of public speaking that many people share. This fear can be channeled by focusing on organizing and practicing.

Helpful techniques to apply include:

  • Reinterpreting limiting or negative thoughts
  • Developing rituals to manage anxiety
  • Listening to successful speakers as models
  • Preparing cue cards
  • Preparing slides
  • Recording yourself

Public Speaking Tips: Delivery

Teachers can manage anxiety and give personable, engaging presentations when they memorize a few key public speaking tips related to giving a talk.

Take on a Speaking Persona

Many teachers already take on a “teaching persona” in the classroom, an intentional role that projects their particular teaching style and philosophy, in the same way a professional actor would play a believable role.

Similarly, public speakers in any situation can develop a “speaking persona” by developing specific gestures, tones of voice, and ways to use space. They can also shape their speaking persona through their choice of material.

Use Body Language to Signal Confidence

How we carry ourselves affects how we feel and how others perceive us. Public speakers should remember to smile. They should avoid folding their arms across their chest, clutching their hands together, or putting their hands in their pockets. To develop body language for their presentations, they can watch videos to see how professional speakers and classic concert singers hold themselves.

Strategize Answering Questions

Although some public speakers may dread the prospect of answering audience questions, they can consider questions, even tough ones, as a welcome chance to engage. Speakers can prepare answers ahead of time for questions they expect people to ask them.

To avoid hesitating when answering questions, which could come across as a lack of credibility, speakers should memorize a routine. This includes writing down questions as they are asked, repeating each question aloud for the audience, acknowledging the question’s value, and applying strategies for responding to questions.

Strategies for answering difficult questions can include devising prepared ways to say “I don’t know” effectively, such as “In approaching that issue, I would first need to know X and Y.”

Conclusion: Practice Makes Perfect

Communication comes naturally. Public speaking is a learned skill, and practicing it brings improvement. Try these tips for teachers and educators and reap the reward of connecting with people about issues you care about.

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