Speaking in front of an audience
Public speaking isn’t a very easy thing to teach and certainly not all people can feel free and absolutely confident in front of many people. However, ability to express one’s opinion clearly and concisely and moreover with confidence is an everyday life necessity. Therefore I’d decided a long time ago that knowing English as a foreign language isn’t enough, one needs to know how to use it. I was surprised to discover that many of my students of all age groups feel stressed whenever they need to express their opinion or at least formulate it in a couple of sentences. They tend to experience what I would call speaking anxiety. How to deal with that and how to help your students to acquire this skill in English? Well, practice makes perfect I say.
When I was teaching at a secondary school I knew that many of my students were going to study in a university very soon and that working with a lot of information, expressing opinion and presenting it properly would be their everyday situations there. What I asked them to do seemed a very simple task, at the first sight though. I asked them to choose one problem that our society in general is trying to find a solution to and present it to the class by giving facts and their own opinion about it and a possible solution. The usage of PPP wasn’t obligatory; however all my students chose it as a tool.
I found it important to mentioned the time limit that they had (I chose 10 minutes this time) and think of a proper structure while making the presentation.
When all my students had presented their 10 minute PP I gathered all the notes I´d made during their presentations and pointed out 10 most common mistakes they´d made. No names mentioned of course. In order to make them actually notice the mistakes I prepared a PowerPoint presentation on it myself. It turned out to be quite funny and interesting class.
10 most common mistakes of PPP students make
- Too many words per slide;
- Too many lines on the slide & too many words per line (when pointing out this I usually mention 6×6 rule – no more than 6 lines per slide and no more than 6 words per line);
- Double check for spelling mistakes;
- Bad choice of background and font colours (tell them to stick to black and white style);
- Too many animations;
- Too many pictures;
- Unrelated slides.
- Too many slides
For a more graphical example, please see this presentation
These ideas may seem quite simple and obvious, especially for someone who is used to making and preparing presentations, but trust me; there are many people out there who have never done it, not even in their native language.
Don’t forget to tell them about things to remember while presenting: eye contact with the audience, clear and loud voice, making jokes only when you’re sure people will find them funny, confident posture and patiently answering every question from the audience before, while and after the presentation.
I’ve always found this a great practice of English as well as of speaking in public in general. Try it out with your groups of students and share your experience.