It’s a commonly quoted ‘fact’ that public speaking ranks as one of many people’s greatest fears, second only to death. Whether or not this is true, any teacher will tell you that the approaching spectre of an oral presentation is enough to induce significant anxiety in some students. And when the presentation is being assessed as a SAC, the stakes feel even higher.
There is no single antidote to this fear, but sometimes explicitly teaching and focusing on the controllable variables – strong structure, engaging content, syntax that facilitates easier delivery and maintaining a strong unifying thread – can help students who are nervous presenters.
This week’s activities and questions are inspired by a recently posted TED talk from Chris Anderson, the TED Curator, who discusses the features of what makes a good presentation. His brain-based explanation of how we listen, and his simple four-step approach to constructing a great talk, are really accessible. He offers a useful reminder to students that even if they are nervous about their delivery, it’s the content that will get their audience on board. Have something interesting to say, and people will listen.
Megan Washington’s TED talk about managing her stuttering, and Joe Kowan’s discussion of how he beat stage fright, might also be useful for students who are after some tips for overcoming their anxiety about public speaking.
These talks aren’t just useful for teaching presentation skills; they would also be interesting speeches for students to analyse. Anderson uses body language and persuasive devices very effectively, and the use of TED footage and onscreen graphics provides students with some interesting and unusual features to consider. Because she is Australian, Megan Washington’s talk would also be suitable as the basis for an EAL listening task.
Scroll down for a content breakdown that will help you to assess if these resources are right for your school context or class, and for a free downloadable PDF of guiding questions and writing tasks. Please note that all links below and in the PDF will take you to third-party sites.
Best wishes and happy teaching.
‘TED’s secret to great public speaking’ by Chris Anderson, filmed March 2016 in the TED Studio, posted April 2016
Central idea: discusses what makes a successful TED talk, and how good presenters engage with their audience and structure their presentations.
Required vocab: neurons, aesthetic
Suitable for: Years 7–12, but some of his language might need explanation for younger students.
‘Why I live in mortal dread of public speaking’ by Megan Washington, TEDxSydney 2014
Form: video speech (with song at the end)
Central idea: discusses in a funny and quite touching way how she manages her stuttering as a performer.
Content warnings: –
‘How I beat stage fright’ by Joe Kowan, TED@StateStreet Boston, 2013
Form: video speech (with a song at the end)
Central idea: discusses how he overcame stage fright by writing ‘The Stage Fright Song’ – very funny and easy listening, especially his response to the advice some people give about overcoming nervousness by imagining your audience naked!
Content warnings: –