Many states require high school students to complete basic communication classes before graduation, and speech offers one way to fulfill the requirement. Many colleges have similar general education requirements that include a public speaking course. Some communication courses integrate content from the departmental major, such as business communication, but all platform speaking classes involve demonstrating public speaking skills. Acing a high school or college speech class involves preparation, practice and learning from other student speeches presented during the classes.
Formal preparation for all speech course assignments helps you receive a good grade. This prep includes reviewing the individual class assignments and carefully selecting a topic for each speech presentation. Some topics, such as informative, persuasive or debate assignments, require trips to the library or the use of online research to prepare. Taking notes and citing references helps the audience view you as a credible speaker, and this research allows your teacher to know you took time to fully develop your assignments. Some teachers require you to submit the research in the form of legal-type briefs listing the quotations and the sources you used in your presentation and also ask you to submit a bibliography of the books or online sources used as part of the speaking assignment.
Ace your speech class by preparing a written outline for each speech. Brainstorm the information for the speech and cluster the ideas into no more than three main points for the speech body. Write a sentence for each body heading and think about possible illustrations for each point. Use examples, facts, short stories or quotations to support your main points. The formal outline with the material under each speaking point helps you clearly develop your central ideas or arguments for the speech assignment. The outline also helps you focus the material for your presentation to stay within the overall speaking time guidelines. While formal outlines for written papers typically use complex ideas, speech outlines use simple sentences that can draw on during the speech presentation. For example, outlining an informative speech about levels of government might include separate body sentences for local, state and federal government levels. Prepare a note card or two listing the main points in the outline for use during the class speech.
Use the short sentences in your written outline as a guide to present the body of your speech, and practice with the brief bits of information written on your note cards. Using a digital voice recorder or camera to record your speech helps you review your delivery and listen to the presentation before your present it to an audience. Or, practice in front of a full-length mirror if you don't have access to recorders or cameras. Present your speech in front of friends and members of your family once you feel comfortable. The more you practice; the more relaxed your delivery will appear to your audience.
Analyze your audience -- both your instructor and the general class -- when you prepare your speeches for class delivery. Think about topics of interest to your audience as well as topics you feel comfortable discussing. Some speech instructors offer the option of presenting your speech and leaving, but staying to observe other student speakers helps you see the most effective speaking techniques and alternative methods that other class members use to present the required assignments. Carefully analyze the verbal or written feedback offered by your teacher and any comment sheets from your class audience to improve your next presentation for the course.
- University of Hawai'i Maui Community College Speech Department: Speakers' Advice to Speakers
- Muskingum College: Learning Strategies Database
- University of North Carolina College of Arts and Sciences Writing Center: Speeches
- Toastmaster: Common Speaker Pitfalls
- University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Speaking and Writing Center: Speaking Anxiety
- David Zarefsky; Public Speaking
Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.