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Web resource for the new school year

Recent college graduate Ben Thomas Payne writes in USA Today College “4 Classroom-Tested Public Speaking Techniques.” This brief post has great advice (#4 is my favorite) for incoming public speaking students.

This article would be great to make available with online course readings for students.

Link to article


Advice on choosing and using visual aids

I recently prepared this document for a class with advice about choosing and using visual aids for a classroom speech:

Although visual aids can be a great addition to a speech, not every visual aid is a good choice. Good visual aids do one of three things in your speech:
• Show how something looks.
• Show how something works.
• Show how two or more things relate.

A great way to see visual aids like these in action is to watch informative TV programs like sports analysis programs, the Weather Channel, a cooking or how-to program, or the news to analyze how they use visuals. Rarely will you see only words used as visuals. More often you will see videoclips, maps, demonstrations, graphs, or diagrams and photos.
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Advice for new public speaking instructors

Dr. Calvin Troup (my first public speaking course director) has written a guide for teachers new to public speaking. The full guide is available for purchase, but the publisher has made the introduction and first chapter available online.

Both are worth a read if you are new to teaching this topic or need answers to the questions “why do I have to learn this?” or “what are the main things I should take from this class?”

The “Home” link on the left provides a phone number to inquire about ordering the full guide.

Link to article

Advice and in-class activity for audience adaptation

This post at Tweakyourslides covers some of the why and how about getting the audience engaged in a presentation rather than leaving them as passive observers.

The post not only covers advice to share with students about encouraging an audience to act, it also has advice for teachers about having students facilitate class discussions or lead topics. There are several author links, a description of a class activity and a link to a TED talk on audience participation.

Link to post

Web resource for delivery or organization

Terry Gault of The Henderson Group has done a guest post called “How to Avoid the 10 Most Common Rookie Mistakes in Public Speaking” at’s Presenter’s Guide.

The post contains a funny slideshow (above), which includes graphics, photos and movie clips. The additional text includes links to several other resources. One of these, also by Gault, answers a question that students often ask: “What the heck do I do with my hands?!?”

This would be an excellent link to provide to students at on your class site. The list could be developed into an in-class activity or out-of-class assignment asking students to react to the suggestions, for example to discuss which they find to be most and least important, and how they can use them in their own speeches.

Link to article

Web resource on delivery

Mitch Joel of Six Pixels of Separation does a great job of explaining why extemporaneous speaking is the most effective format.

Using the image of “horror story” he defines the limitations of both memorized and read speeches, particularly in a classroom setting.

This would be a great resource to share with new speech teachers or with students skeptical about the extemporaneous format.

Link to article

Advice for high school students

Teacher Ryan Gaskill summarizes the advice that he gives to high school students about their in-class presentations in this blog post. It is written directly to high-school students.

This five-point list would be good to share with students before their presentations either in class or online. It would be helpful not only for speech teachers, but also classes where students may give only a single oral presentation.

Link to article

Advice on audience adaptation

Scott Schwertly, CEO of Ethos3, gives five tips for how to present to Millennials. In addition to some nice advice for instructors, this could also be a good link to share with older students who often ask, “How can I relate my speeches to these younger students?”

Link to article

Advice on leadership…from George Washington

For President’s Day, here is some advice about leadership I found from George Washington in a letter to a young colonel. I think it applies to teachers as well.

“The best general advice I can give…is to be strict in your discipline; that is, to require nothing unreasonable of your officers and men, but see that whatever is required be punctually complied with. Reward and punish every man according to his merit, without partiality or prejudice. Hear his complaints; if well founded, redress them; if otherwise, discourage them in order to prevent frivolous ones…

“Be easy and condescending in your deportment to your officers, but not too familiar, lest you subject yourself to a want of that respect which is necessary to support a proper command.”

From “The Real George Washington: The True Story of America’s Most Indispensable Man” by Jay A. Parry and Andrew M. Allison (2009).

Why Public Speaking Textbooks Suck

Creating Communication

The field of public speaking and presentation has been transformed by 21st century revolutionaries such as Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds, Guy Kawasaki, and Seth Godin.  With the introduction of TED Talks into popular culture and with a focus on visual communication principles as opposed to death-by-PowerPoint, those standard academic textbooks feel stale and corny.  More offensively, textbooks also ramble on for 600 or so pages about concepts most students would classify as “common sense.”  Does a college sophomore really need to read a textbook to understand that he or she should speak to a kindergarten class in a different way than he or she would speak to a crowd of senior citizens?  Does a college student need to read an entire chapter on listening?  Give me a break!

My next goal is to change my school’s Public Speaking textbook from a standard academic textbook to something more student and…

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