4 Tips for Public Speaking

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How do you react when someone asks you to deliver a public presentation?

Teachers are born presenters, but ask a teacher to speak in front of their colleagues and the chances are, is that they will shy away from the occasion and refuse to speak in front of their peers. With the rise of TeachMeets, teachers are becoming increasingly confident with public speaking as the demand for like-minded individuals to gather for informal conferences gives everyone a platform; free from critique or accountability.

Peer of Fear?

I’ve written about Peer or Fear before: the notion that people – who lack confidence with public speaking – are more likely to speak in front of strangers than they would standing in front of their colleagues. If you are interested in research, then it’s worth reading ‘The perils of peer review‘ to understand how this critique is interpreted in the academic world.

I remember when I first attempted public speaking beyond my classroom. It was to share good practice – as identified by the leadership team – in my place of work within a school; to share examples of work and pitch to encourage other teachers to engage with the work. It was the summer. It was hot, or perhaps that was my nerves? The year was 2006 and it was the very first time I had presented in front of 150 colleagues. It was nerve-wracking and I vaguely recall having anything coherent to say.

Almost a decade later, I wonder what were the highlights of that presentation? Was it memorable for colleagues or more memorable to me because it was my first? And what about the hundreds of other public speaking engagements I have now spoken at over the past decade?

Part and parcel of my job, is to speak publicly to over 200 colleagues once or twice a week. Public speaking is part of my day job. Sometimes I have to speak to over 250 students, a room full of parents or on some occasions, over 500+ adults attending an education conference. Every hour I am speaking to at least 30 students and what I say, when and how is extremely important.

My job is to be able to speak and present ideas and issues with staff as part of my school leadership role. Over the last 5 years, my social media profile has led to invitations to speak (and be paid for doing so which is very flattering) to present at conferences and teacher training events … However, I would still not consider myself an expert in anything in particular, or for that matter, the perfect presenter. Far from it!

However, a recent video shared on this blog by Arushi Prabhakar asked the question: how do we build relationships, develop oracy … ?

Image: Shutterstock

There’s no single formula for a great talk, but there is a secret ingredient that all the best ones have in common … four ways to make it work for you.

The Secret Ingredient:

In Prabhakar’s blog, she shared a fabulous TED video by TED curator, Chris Anderson.

For me, public speaking is all about sharing the work you are doing and being passionate about what you are doing. Delivering your story with pragmatism and integrity are a sure way to engage an audience and enable them to take your ideas away and implement them straight away. As a teacher, that’s what I believes works for my audiences and gives credibility to your work.

In the video link above, Anderson offers four tips for great presentations when public speaking:

1. Focus

Limit your talk to just one major idea. Slash back your content and give yourself a chance to share that idea properly. Make that one idea link back to everything you say and give context throughout. (This is something I need to work on.)

2. Reason to care?

Give people a reason to care about what you have to say. Seek the audience’s permission by stirring their curiosity. Why ‘XYZ’ needs explaining? Why ‘XYZ’ knowledge is missing and needs to be plugged into your mind-gap?

3. Build with concepts

Build your idea with familiar concepts that your audience already understands. Use the power of language to weave together concepts that already exist in your listeners’ minds; using the language your audience already understands, not what you understand.

4. Make it worth it

Make your idea worth sharing. Ask yourself, who benefits from this idea? Is it just you or your organisation, then it’s probably not worth sharing, but if it will inspire someone to do something differently, then you have the core ingredient.

Something to think about for every teacher standing up in front of their students …

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