20 October 2012

Reflections on Public Speaking

Before giving a presentation, many people go through a roller-coaster of emotions and fears, instead of feeling more secure with each rehearsal. Public speaking doesn't always come naturally, and that is why focusing on a good solid structure, knowing the audience and predicting what they will be expecting are good rules of practice. 

Among all the other characteristics which make up a good presentation, I also find that it is important to maintain one's cultural identity and style. Not a simple task, especially as increasingly presentation training becomes more and more global and in turn, more the same. Nevertheless, there are personal characteristics which one can use to one's advantage: the use of voice and body language. 

A presentation is a talk, not a lecture. It is a talk which may involve outcomes, decisions, further action and not only grades. It's also an excellent opportunity for language learners to transfer their voice to another language - and here come the risks: they will often memorize, read and babble their talk  as quickly as possible, without pausing, without connecting with the audience, without reaching out to the linguistic patterns of L2. 

One can help improve this with lots of practice, and also by showing examples. One example I'd like to share is this one below, where Dalton Sherman makes powerful use of pauses and language rhythms  to connect with audience:

Accepting that one has fragilities is another step towards strengthening one's confidence. Some speakers may feel their hands sticky, others may suddenly stutter. In both cases, acceptance of these fragilities is empowering. If you tend to have sticky palms when speaking publicly, have a tissue at hand. If you stutter or cough, a smile to the audience and a sip of water will do the trick. As long as the presentation has a good structure, as long as the audience feels that the speaker has rehearsed, is talking to them, is interested in them, audiences are often understanding of these fragile moments.

Though not directly speaking about public speaking, Amy Cuddy gave a TED Talk about body language which also calls one's attention about how body language is an important issue when speaking publicly:

Delivery mode is perhaps what many will want to consider - PPT, an animated story, a VuVox,  a Prezi? These are some further suggestions for presentations.

Presentation Tube

Google Presentations


What other features do you find relevant in public speaking?

Further suggestions:

Presentations with a Twist

Slide Your Show


The Importance of Speaking to your Slides

Speak Easy: Tips for Public Speaking like a Pro

6 Ways to Make Presentation Tasks Work in Your Classroom

Presentation Zen

Speaking About Presenting


  1. Thank you, Cristina.

    Very useful, not just for our students but for us too.

    This is a crucial skill.

    Keep on the sharing interesting topics :-)


  2. Hi Paula,

    Thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts - always much appreciated!

    And yes, you are absolutely right, teachers are public speakers, whether in the classroom or meeting room, so being confident to speak publicly is important.

    Thank you too for such wonderful feedback! I tend to blog on what interests me and what may be useful, so it's great to know that others also find interest in what I include here.

  3. An interesting post Cristina. I do agree about the trend towards homogeneity of presentations. You have to be yourself and accept that you can never please all the people all the time. I am privileged to sit on several executive committees for conferences and it always interests me as we discuss keynotes and invited speakers, how some committee members will love one presentation and others will hate the exact same presentation. The things one person will rate highly another will dismiss. So as a presenter my advice is to be natural and be yourself and try to connect with your audience, but also just accept that some people will not connect and either not like your message or not like your style and that is okay. The worst situation is to try and be what you are not, as everyone will see through that and you will come across as a fake. Most of all my advice would be to decide what it is that you want to achieve before you speak, the “Why?” of the talk. Purpose is vital, if you do not know why then you do not have a message worth hearing. I love Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. I hope this helps.

  4. Hi Mark,

    Thank you for your time to visit and share your thoughts. And yes, it's the "why" of most talks which is core to a presentation. If there is no "why" (other than the teacher told me to do this...), there is equally no passion or commitment to the talk, no purpose really.

    Thank you too for sharing a great tip - I include the link to Garr Reynolds' blog below: