Getting Comfortable with Public Speaking

Some people consider public speaking scarier than death. It also happens to be something that we must do regularly in the academy, including in our roles as instructors. Whatever our level of mastery in our academic discipline, how we say things and the particular contexts in which we speak impact the efficacy and clarity of our communication. Though public speaking is integral to our work, we rarely get feedback on how we interact and present. We also rarely have occasion to think about the bodily and affective aspects of engaging with an audience.

By breaking down and exploring some of these components of public speaking, we can better understand the nerves and fear that arise around this act. Such understanding can serve as a foundation for improving our ability to communicate clearly and effectively in the classroom and beyond.

We will look at public speaking in a variety of classroom settings, explore strategies for getting comfortable, examine the different elements of public speaking (such as mannerisms), and think through their relationship to context and audience. This will all be done with an eye towards helping attendees become more comfortable speaking in the classroom.

Getting Comfortable with Public Speaking was offered in the Fall 2018 as an in-person workshop at the Graduate Center, CUNY. The workshop and materials were developed by Mei Ling Chua.


All materials on this page and in the linked google folder are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA) 4.0 International Public License.

This folder contains outreach materials, workshop plans and slides.

Materials Folder:  Getting Comfortable with Public Speaking

Workshop Plan

Introduction [20 mins]

  • Welcome and general intro to workshop. 
    • How to speak, as part of a larger goal of good communication/interaction in classroom. Yes, feedback on personal mannerisms, and some things to be aware of, but also the effectiveness of communicating as engaging with an awareness of an audience rather than unilateral wall of sound.
  • Standing body scan
    • A way of calming, and relaxing, but also starting awareness of what you are doing in and with your body.
  • Icebreaker: Interview Introductions: Pairs, each interviews the other, then everyone reports back to larger group about the other person. [Name, What you are teaching or hope/expect to teach, One thing scarier than public speaking? (and/or Or what concerns or excites you most about public speaking/teaching?)] icebreak q here.
  • One(ish) minute comedic video of crazy handgestures/tics [maybe]

Noticing. [20 mins]

  • Go over rubric of individual mannerism in presentation (3, 2-3 minute clips of speakers, use same rubric to notice what they are doing.)
  • Discuss/share what we saw. (highlight how they are all imperfect, (ums, ah, and all sound different, but manage to be clear, rather than having some platonic ideal of proper oration. Suggest video/audio recording as great ways to get feedback about yourelf)

Considering Setting/Context, public speaking particular to classroom [15 mins]

  • Workshop as opportunity to get to notice the other components/elements of public speaking that we often don’t get to pay attention to.
    • Coordination with other materials/activities within the classroom/class period
      • powerpoint, classroom handouts, group work etc)
  • Activity: Size/shape of classroom & number of people in the audience, activity, part of class period maybe not even
      • The game, speed dating style, each person has a card, with room/audience size/type, and a particular activity,  pair for a minute and think through how to do it, problems that arise, how to approach. , then move on to a different pairing

Active Listening/Responsiveness  [15 mins] (backup)

  • Activity: Variation of expert interview or continuous story.

Noticing, Round 2 [20 mins]

Return to the rubric, now in small groups, (triads?) one minute round of standing in front of them and speaking on a low-stakes topic. (options: my fictional best friend, Funny image (everyone googles a picture), explain what your discipline is to someone who doesn’t know). Other two people will do rubric/observation. Do this for each person in the group, and then share rubrics, and observations in the small groups

  • Direction to subway, something confident about

End [10 mins]

  • Reflecting on experiences as a large group
  • Something about survey and additional resources