Learning Center Study Guides

Perform Better In the Classroom

Easing the Pain of Public Speaking - A Step by Step Guide

Angelique Serrano, one of our former tutors and a speech communication major, created the following information for students to help prepare them for class presentations.

Step 1: Researching Your Topic

  • Choose a topic and become familiar with it
  • Guage how much information your audience needs with regard to the amount of time you have to present your information 
  • Be appropriate when considering your audience -- keep your information "in tune" with your audience; for example, don't use extensive medical jargon to explain how diabetes is acquired if your audience is not medical students or doctors who will know what the jargon means
  • Is more information availabile?  -- will your audience be able to learn more about your topic if they are interested?  (Did you have difficulty finding information?)
  • Be Captivating & Maintain the Interest of Your Audience-- figure out how to utilize an attention grabber; for example, most people eat foods containing sugar.  For someone with diabetes, however, this activity can cause serious harm.  You could begin your speech with a question about the sugar consumption of your audience to make them consider their own diets.
  • Conduct preliminary research
    • Go to the library or search the web for information (history, statistics, research studies) about your topic
    • Meet with reference librarians
    • Online Databases (text & non-text)
      Online Catalog
    • Popular Periodicals (as tools & visuals)
    • Check your sources for credibility and timeliness
  • Find comfort with your topic
    • Once you've completed your research, your topic should no longer seem new, difficult to understand (e.g. terminology, facts, etc.), or scary to present to other people

Step 2: Writing Your Speech

Start by making an outline of your speech. Be sure to include the following:

  1. Introduction
    • Attention grabber which reveals your topic
    • Thesis
    • Preview of Body
    • Establish credibility and goodwill with your audience
  1. Body/Main Points
    • Clearly state the difference between your points
    • Always stay on topic; avoid tangents
    • Use transitions to connect main points (e.g. however, furthermore, in contrast, etc.)
  2. Conclusion
    • Restate your thesis and main points
    • Offer another attention grabber, a  "clincher," to remind your audience why your points are valid
    • Don't present new information

Step 3: Giving Your Speech

  • Establish and maintain eye contact with everyone in your audience
  • Be dynamic (creative)
  • Use hand and body gestures minimally to maintain your audience's attention but not to be distracting from the information you are presenting
  • Calm Nervous Habits - shifting from one foot to the other, and saying "um" every time you pause will be noticeable to your audience.  Practicing your speech before you present it will help with this.

Tip: Use visual aids to enhance your presentation and/or add clarification of points
(Choose your style of visual aid carefully, though, by considering your audience and what might be offensive to various people.)

For additional information about writing and giving speeches - including dealing with the fear of speaking publicly, look at the sites below.

Contact Information


Claude J. Clark Learning Center at SUNY Plattsburgh

Feinberg Library, Room 103 (First Floor)
101 Broad Street
Plattsburgh, New York 12901
Phone: (518) 564-6138
Fax: (518) 564-6140
Email: learningctr@plattsburgh.edu