Public speaking activities for college students offer invaluable opportunities to develop essential communication skills, boost confidence, and prepare for future academic and professional endeavors. These activities go beyond the traditional classroom setting, providing engaging and interactive platforms for students to refine their public speaking prowess. Whether it’s through exercises that focus on vocal modulation and storytelling or games that encourage friendly competition, these activities empower college students to become more effective and articulate communicators. In this guide, we will explore a variety of public speaking activities and their benefits, offering college students a roadmap to becoming more confident and proficient speakers.
What is Public Speaking?
“Speak in such a way that others love to listen to you. Listen in such a way that others love to speak to you.”– Anonymous
Greetings, fellow wordsmiths and speech enthusiasts! If you’ve ever felt your heart race at the thought of addressing a crowd, or if you’ve found yourself tongue-tied when all eyes are on you, fear not! We’re diving headfirst into the exhilarating world of public speaking, where words wield power, charisma is your secret weapon, and confidence is your trusty sidekick.
In this captivating blog, we’ll unravel the art of public speaking, demystify stage fright, and equip you with the skills to command any room, from a cozy gathering of friends to a roaring auditorium filled with strangers. Get ready to discover the hidden orator within you and embark on a journey that promises not just personal growth but also oodles of fun.
So, whether you’re preparing to ace that next presentation, dazzle at a social event, or simply want to boost your communication prowess, join us on this electrifying adventure. As we explore the ins and outs of public speaking, we’ll throw in some tricks, share tales of triumphs and fumbles, and sprinkle in a dash of humor to make the journey as enlightening as possible.
Can Public Speaking be learned?
Contrary to popular belief, not all great speakers were born with a silver tongue. The majority of captivating orators you admire today started as mere mortals who stumbled over their words and faced their fair share of stage fright. Let’s dive into the fascinating world of public speaking and explore how this skill is cultivated.
The Natural Born Orator: Myth or Reality?
While some individuals possess an innate knack for public speaking from a young age, they are the exception, not the rule. These “natural born orators” are like unicorns in the speaking world, rare and enchanting. They effortlessly command attention, spin mesmerizing tales, and leave audiences hanging on their every word. But here’s the kicker: there are a few of them around!
The Majority: Made, Not Born
The truth is, most of the world’s renowned speakers, from Winston Churchill to Oprah Winfrey, Malcolm X to J.K. Rowling, didn’t emerge from the womb delivering flawless speeches. They developed their skills through dedication, practice, and a willingness to learn from their mistakes.
Consider this: according to studies, around 75% of people suffer from glossophobia, which is the fear of public speaking. This statistic alone should reassure you that you’re not alone in your struggles. Even some of the greatest public speakers initially grappled with stage fright and stumbled through their early speeches.
The Power of Learning and Practice
So, how do these once-timid souls transform into magnetic orators? They embrace the art of public speaking as a craft that can be cultivated by immersing themselves in the intricacies of effective communication, learning about body language, voice modulation, and the art of storytelling. They attend workshops, take public speaking courses, and practice their skills relentlessly.
Moreover, they aren’t afraid to learn from their missteps. Every “um” and “uh,” every moment of nervousness, is seen as an opportunity for improvement. They analyze their performances, seek feedback, and refine their technique. The bottom line is this: public speaking is a skill, not a genetic trait. With the right mindset, determination, and a bit of guidance, anyone can become a masterful speaker.
Best Public Speaking Activities for college students:
A) Public speaking games for college students
Public speaking games are interactive and engaging activities designed to improve public speaking skills, boost confidence, and enhance communication abilities. Games are interactive and often competitive, making learning more engaging and enjoyable. Here are some examples of public speaking games:
- 30 Second Speech
- Just A Minute Speech
- Debate Duels
- Storytelling Relay
- Public Speaking Bingo
- Speech Speed Dating
- Public Speaking Charades
- Speech Olympics
- Role Reversal
1. 30-second speech
What is the 30-second speech activity? Performing a 30-second speech in a classroom setting is a concise yet impactful way to communicate your ideas or present information. This activity typically involves standing in front of your classmates or audience and speaking for exactly 30 seconds on a chosen topic. The goal is to effectively convey your message within this short time frame while engaging your audience and leaving a lasting impression.
- Introduction (5-7 seconds): Begin with an engaging opener, stating your topic’s relevance.
- Main Message (15-18 seconds): Convey your core point concisely with supporting evidence.
- Conclusion (5-7 seconds): Summarize or issue a call to action to reinforce your message.
Rules and Tips:
- Manage time closely.
- Speak clearly and at a steady pace.
- Engage the audience with questions or prompts.
- Use confident body language.
- Utilize visual aids if allowed.
- Stay calm by practicing and taking deep breaths.
By adhering to these steps and guidelines, you can confidently deliver a compelling 30-second speech in class.
2. Just A Minute speech (JAM)
What is the Just A Minute speech activity? The “Just A Minute” (JAM) speech activity challenges participants to speak on a given topic for one minute without hesitation, repetition, or deviation. It fosters improvisational speaking skills and quick thinking.
- Topic Familiarization: Stay informed about various topics.
- Practice: Hone spontaneous speaking abilities on diverse subjects.
How to Do It:
- Selection: Participants are chosen randomly or in order.
- Topic Assignment: A moderator provides a topic, and the speaker has one minute to discuss it.
- Rules: Avoid hesitation, repetition, or deviation from the topic.
- Scoring: Judges evaluate adherence to rules, fluency, and content quality.
- The JAM speech activity is an enjoyable and educational exercise for enhancing public speaking and improvisation skills.
3. Debate Duels:
Activity: Debate duels involve organizing structured debates between two students or teams who argue opposing sides of a chosen topic. Participants present arguments, offer rebuttals, and conclude their case. The goal is to foster well-researched arguments and promote respectful discourse.
- Topic Selection: Choose a relevant and debatable topic.
- Research: Participants should research their respective positions thoroughly.
- Format: Decide on debate format (e.g., timed speeches, cross-examination).
- Roles: Assign roles such as debaters, moderators, and timekeepers.
How to Do It:
- Opening Statements: Each side presents its arguments.
- Rebuttals: Teams respond to opponents’ arguments.
- Cross-examination (if included): Teams question each other.
- Conclusions: Summarize key points and restate positions.
- Maintain respect and civility.
- Use evidence and logic to support arguments.
- Stick to time limits for speeches.
- Follow the predetermined format.
Debate duels provide a platform for students to develop research, critical thinking, and communication skills through structured, respectful debate.
4. Storytelling Relay:
Activity: In a storytelling relay, teams of 3-4 students collaborate to create a narrative. It starts with one student providing an opening sentence, and each subsequent student adds one sentence to continue the story. The aim is to build a cohesive narrative with seamless transitions.
- Team Formation: Divide students into teams of 3-4 members.
- Topic or Theme: Decide if there’s a specific topic or theme for the stories.
- Order: Determine the order in which students will contribute to the story.
- Time Limit: Set a time limit for each sentence contribution, e.g., 10 seconds.
How to Do It:
- Opening Sentence: The first student in each team provides an opening sentence to begin the story.
- Sentence Contributions: Each student takes turns adding one sentence to continue the narrative.
- Transitions: Students must ensure their sentences connect smoothly with the previous ones.
- Cohesion: Teams collaborate to maintain consistency and coherence in the story.
- Maintain the predetermined order for sentence contributions.
- Keep sentences concise and on-topic.
- Ensure sentences flow logically from one another.
- Encourage creativity and adaptability.
Storytelling relay is a creative and collaborative activity that fosters teamwork, creativity, and improvisation skills as students work together to build a compelling story.
5. Public Speaking Bingo:
Activity: In Public Speaking Bingo, bingo cards with different public speaking challenges in each square are created (e.g., “Use a compelling statistic,” “Maintain eye contact,” “No filler words”). During speeches, students mark off squares as they complete the challenges, aiming to achieve a bingo.
- Bingo Cards: Create bingo cards with various public speaking challenges randomly placed in each square.
- Topics: Prepare speech topics or allow students to choose their own.
- Markers or Chips: Provide markers or chips for students to use when they complete a challenge.
- Prizes (optional): Consider offering small prizes for students who achieve bingo.
How to Do It:
- Card Distribution: Distribute the bingo cards to students before the speeches begin.
- Speeches: As students give their speeches, they mark off squares when they complete the challenges listed.
- Winning: The first student to complete a row, column, or diagonal with marked squares shouts “Bingo!” and wins the game.
- Challenges must be completed during the speech.
- Challenges should be marked off honestly.
- The winner should declare “Bingo” immediately upon completing a line of challenges.
Public Speaking Bingo is a fun and interactive activity that encourages students to focus on specific public speaking skills and techniques while delivering speeches, making the learning experience engaging and enjoyable.
6. Speech Speed Dating:
Activity: Speech Speed Dating involves pairing students and giving them 3-5 minutes each to introduce themselves or present a mini-topic. After each “date,” students switch partners. This exercise helps improve speaking under time constraints and fosters active listening skills.
- Pairing: Arrange students in pairs.
- Topics (optional): Prepare mini-topics or allow students to choose what they’ll speak about.
- Timer: Set a timer for each speaking session.
- Space: Ensure there’s enough space for students to move between partners.
How to Do It:
- Introduction: Students introduce themselves or present their mini-topic to their partner within the time limit.
- Switch Partners: After the allotted time, students rotate to a new partner and repeat the process.
- Repeat: Continue this cycle for multiple rounds, allowing students to interact with different partners.
- Stick to the time limit for each speaking session.
- Encourage active listening and engagement during each “date.”
- Ensure students switch partners as instructed to maximize interaction.
Speech Speed Dating is a dynamic activity that enhances students’ ability to convey information succinctly and promotes effective listening and engagement in a fast-paced speaking environment.
7. Public Speaking Charades:
Activity: Public Speaking Charades involves creating cards with different public speaking scenarios or gestures (e.g., “Giving a TED Talk,” “Delivering bad news”). Students act out these scenarios without speaking, and the audience guesses what they’re portraying. This exercise enhances nonverbal communication skills.
- Scenario Cards: Prepare cards with various public speaking scenarios or gestures.
- Audience: Arrange for an audience or divide students into small groups to take turns acting and guessing.
- Timer: Set a timer for each acting session.
How to Do It:
- Card Draw: One student draws a scenario card and acts it out without speaking.
- Guessing: The audience or other students guess what public speaking scenario is being portrayed.
- Rotation: After a set time or when the correct guess is made, a new student takes a turn.
- No speaking or verbal cues are allowed during the charades.
- Encourage creative and expressive gestures to convey the scenario.
- Keep the game moving by setting time limits for each turn.
Public Speaking Charades is a lively activity that sharpens nonverbal communication skills and creativity while making public speaking scenarios more engaging and memorable.
8. Speech Olympics:
Activity: Speech Olympics is a structured competition where students participate in a series of public speaking challenges, which can include tongue twisters, impromptu storytelling, persuasive pitches, and more. Participants earn medals or points based on their performance. This activity provides a fun and lighthearted way to develop various speaking skills.
- Challenge Selection: Choose a variety of speaking challenges that suit the skill levels of the participants.
- Scoring System: Determine how participants will earn points or medals (e.g., judging panels or audience voting).
- Materials: Prepare any necessary materials or props for specific challenges.
- Medals or Prizes: Optional – acquire medals or prizes for winners.
How to Do It:
- Introduction: Explain the rules and challenges to the participants.
- Challenge Rotation: Participants move through a series of challenges, competing against each other.
- Scoring: Use the predetermined scoring system to assess performance and award medals or points.
- Winners: Announce the winners and celebrate their achievements.
- Participants must adhere to the specific rules of each challenge.
- Judges or the audience score performances based on predefined criteria.
- Encourage sportsmanship and respectful competition.
Speech Olympics is a dynamic activity that allows students to practice a range of speaking skills competitively and engagingly, making it an enjoyable learning experience.
9. Role Reversal:
Activity: In Role Reversal, students play both the role of the speaker and the audience. After delivering a speech, they switch roles, with the audience members providing constructive feedback to the speaker. This exercise helps students gain insight into the audience’s perspective and fosters effective feedback skills.
- Speech Topics: Assign or allow students to choose their speech topics.
- Feedback Guidelines: Prepare guidelines for constructive feedback.
- Peer Evaluation Forms: Create forms or worksheets for audience members to provide feedback.
How to Do It:
- Speaker’s Turn: A student delivers a speech on their chosen topic.
- Role Reversal: After the speech, the roles switch, and the audience becomes the feedback provider.
- Feedback Session: The audience offers constructive feedback, focusing on strengths and areas for improvement.
- Discussion: Encourage a brief discussion where the speaker can ask clarifying questions or provide context for their choices.
- Feedback should be respectful and constructive, focusing on the speech’s content and delivery.
- Encourage active listening and thoughtful feedback from the audience.
- The speaker should be receptive to feedback and open to improvement suggestions.
Role Reversal is an interactive exercise that enhances students’ understanding of both the speaker and audience perspectives, promoting effective communication skills and constructive feedback within a learning environment.
B) Public Speaking Exercises for college students:
Public speaking exercises are structured activities and practices aimed at improving public speaking skills. Exercises are structured activities that often focus on specific aspects of public speaking, such as breath control, diction, or body language. Each exercise typically targets a specific aspect of public speaking or communication. Here are some common public speaking exercises:
- Breathing Exercises
- Tongue Twisters
- Mirror Practice
- Storytelling Practice
- Impromptu Practice
- Emotional Vocal Modulation
1. Breathing Exercises
Diaphragmatic breathing is a technique that involves using your diaphragm, a muscle located below your ribcage, to control your breath. It is a fundamental exercise for improving vocal projection and managing anxiety during speaking or public speaking situations.
How to Do It: To perform diaphragmatic breathing, sit or stand comfortably with proper posture. Inhale deeply through your nose for a slow count of four, allowing your diaphragm to expand and your lower lungs to fill. Hold your breath for four counts without tensing your chest or neck. Then, exhale slowly and steadily through your mouth for another count of four. Repeat this breathing pattern regularly to strengthen your diaphragm, enhance vocal projection, and reduce anxiety associated with speaking engagements.
2. Tongue Twisters:
Tongue twisters are word or phrase sequences designed to be challenging to articulate due to their repetitive or tricky sounds. This exercise is used to improve pronunciation, diction, and speech clarity.
How to Do It: To perform tongue twisters, start with simple ones and gradually advance to more complex ones as your proficiency grows. Pronounce each word or phrase, emphasizing correct articulation, and gradually increase your speed. The goal is to challenge your tongue and mouth muscles, enhancing your ability to enunciate words clearly and improving your overall speech clarity.
- Simple Tongue Twisters:
- She sells seashells by the seashore.
- Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear; Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy, was he?
- How can a clam cram in a clean cream can?
- Intermediate Tongue Twisters:
- Unique New York, you know you need a unique New York.
- Red leather, yellow leather.
- Six slippery snails slid slowly seaward.
- Advanced Tongue Twisters:
- Betty Botter bought some butter but the butter was bitter, so Betty bought some better butter to make the bitter butter better.
- Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. How many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?
- Irish wristwatch, Swiss wristwatch.
3. Mirror Practice:
Mirror practice is a technique used to enhance your public speaking skills. It involves standing in front of a full-length mirror while delivering a speech or presentation. The aim is to closely observe and improve your body language, facial expressions, and gestures as you speak.
How to Do It: To perform mirror practice, position yourself in front of a full-length mirror, ensuring you have a clear view of yourself. Deliver your speech or presentation as you normally would, paying keen attention to your reflection. Focus on your posture, hand movements, facial expressions, and any other nonverbal cues you use while speaking. By actively observing yourself in the mirror, you can identify areas for improvement in your delivery and work on refining your public speaking skills over time.
4. Storytelling Practice:
Storytelling practice involves sharing personal anecdotes or stories with friends or peers while incorporating storytelling techniques such as creating suspense, infusing humor, and using vivid descriptions. This practice is aimed at refining your storytelling skills and making your narratives more engaging.
How to Do It: To perform storytelling practice, select a personal anecdote or story you’d like to share. As you share it with friends or peers, focus on the storytelling elements. Create suspense by building anticipation and keeping your audience curious about what happens next. Infuse humor by adding funny anecdotes or witty remarks where appropriate. Use vivid descriptions to paint a clear picture and evoke emotions. By practicing storytelling in this way, you can develop your ability to captivate your audience and make your narratives more compelling.
5. Impromptu Topics:
Impromptu topics practice involves regularly engaging in impromptu speaking by selecting random topics or prompts and delivering short, on-the-spot speeches about them. This exercise is designed to sharpen your ability to think quickly and articulate ideas effectively without prior preparation.
How to Do It: To perform impromptu topic practice, have a selection of random topics or prompts ready. These topics can be related to various subjects, such as current events, personal experiences, or hypothetical scenarios. Choose a topic at random and challenge yourself to deliver a brief speech or response to it without any prior planning or research. This exercise will help you become more comfortable with spontaneous speaking, improve your ability to organize your thoughts quickly and enhance your overall communication skills.
6. Emotional Vocal Modulation:
Emotional vocal modulation is a technique used to enhance the expressiveness of your speeches. It involves practicing the variation of your tone, pitch, and inflection to convey different emotions effectively. By modulating your voice, you can captivate your audience and convey a range of feelings and sentiments in your presentations.
How to Do It: To perform emotional vocal modulation, start by selecting a piece of text or speech. As you practice, deliberately vary your tone, pitch, and inflection to match the emotions or sentiments you want to convey. Experiment with different vocal techniques, such as using a higher pitch for excitement, a lower pitch for seriousness, or fluctuating tone for emphasis and engagement. Regular practice of emotional vocal modulation will help you become a more dynamic and compelling speaker, capable of engaging your audience on an emotional level.
Where to start Public Speaking?
Starting on the path of public speaking as a college student is a wise decision that can have a significant impact on your academic and professional life. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:
1. College Public Speaking Courses:
College public speaking courses are an excellent starting point for students eager to develop their speaking skills. These courses typically provide a structured and comprehensive approach to public speaking. You’ll learn about speech organization, effective delivery techniques, and strategies to engage your audience. Instructors are often experienced public speakers who can offer valuable insights and feedback.
Additionally, these courses offer a supportive environment for practicing your speaking skills. You’ll have the opportunity to present speeches in front of your peers, receive constructive criticism, and refine your abilities. As a bonus, college courses often provide resources like textbooks and access to speech labs to help you master the art of public speaking.
“The best way to conquer stage fright is to know what you’re talking about.”— Michael H. Mescon
2. Join Public Speaking Clubs:
Toastmasters and similar public speaking clubs are renowned for their ability to transform nervous speakers into confident orators. These clubs provide a supportive community of individuals who share a common goal: improving their public speaking skills. They offer a structured framework where you can gradually work your way up from short impromptu speeches to longer prepared presentations.
What makes these clubs invaluable is the frequent practice opportunities they provide. You can refine your skills in a nonjudgmental environment, receive feedback, and witness the progress of fellow members. Joining such a club can be a powerful stepping stone in your public speaking journey.
Toastmasters International has over 364,000 members in 16,200 clubs in 145 countries.
You can join our online community of Toastmasters for engaging in Learning and Group Discussions here.
3. Online Public Speaking Resources:
In today’s digital age, a wealth of online resources is readily available to aid in your public speaking education. You can find books, articles, videos, and courses dedicated to the subject. These resources cover a wide range of topics, from speech preparation and delivery techniques to managing stage fright.
The advantage of online resources is their accessibility and flexibility. You can explore these materials at your own pace, focusing on areas that need improvement. Whether you’re looking for expert advice, speech templates, or video tutorials, the internet offers a vast repository of knowledge to help you become a more effective speaker.
Over 3,000 books on public speaking are available on Amazon.
4. Self-Practice and Recording:
Self-practice is a fundamental component of improving your public speaking skills. Whether it’s practicing in front of a mirror, recording your speeches, or rehearsing in an empty room, these exercises help you become more comfortable with your own voice and body language.
Recording yourself is particularly valuable as it allows you to objectively assess your performance. You can analyze aspects like tone, gestures, and clarity of speech. By identifying areas that need refinement, you can tailor your practice sessions to address specific weaknesses and gradually build confidence.
“Practice puts brains in your muscles.”— Sam Snead
5. Seek Feedback from Professors and Peers:
Constructive feedback is an essential component of growth as a speaker. Don’t hesitate to reach out to professors and peers for input on your presentations. Professors, with their expertise, can offer valuable insights into your content, organization, and delivery.
Additionally, peers can provide a different perspective and offer suggestions for improvement. Collaborative learning and sharing feedback within your academic community can enhance your speaking skills and help you gain a fresh outlook on your strengths and weaknesses as a speaker.
In a survey, 94% of employees said they’d benefit from feedback, according to Harvard Business Review.
6. Volunteer for Speaking Opportunities:
Volunteering to speak in class or participate in campus events is a practical way to apply what you’ve learned. These opportunities allow you to gain real-life experience, helping you overcome nerves and improve your ability to connect with an audience.
Whether it’s delivering a presentation in front of your classmates or addressing a larger crowd at a campus event, each experience contributes to your growth as a speaker. The more you put yourself in these situations, the more confident and adept you’ll become at conveying your message effectively.
Example: Delivering a class presentation on a topic you’re passionate about.
7. Study Renowned Speakers:
Studying the speeches of renowned public speakers is a powerful way to improve your skills. Analyzing speeches from figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Winston Churchill, Oprah Winfrey, or TED Talk presenters can provide valuable insights into effective rhetoric, storytelling, and engagement techniques.
By dissecting these speeches, you can learn how to structure your content, use persuasive language, and capture your audience’s attention. It’s a practical way to see proven strategies in action and apply them to your presentations.
Example: Analyzing Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech for rhetorical techniques.
These seven options offer a diverse range of opportunities for college students to embark on their journey toward becoming effective public speakers. Whether you choose formal education, community support, online resources, or practical experience, remember that the key to success is consistent practice and a commitment to personal growth. Developing your public speaking skills will not only benefit your academic pursuits but also prepare you for future personal and professional endeavors.
The world of public speaking holds endless possibilities for college students. It’s a realm where your voice, ideas, and stories can resonate and inspire. While the journey to becoming a confident and skilled speaker may seem daunting, the key is to remember that every great orator, from the classroom to the TED stage, started somewhere.
The most crucial step is to just start. Put yourself out there, embrace the challenges, and dive into public speaking activities and exercises. As you navigate tongue twisters, engage in debate duels, or share personal anecdotes, you’re not only honing your communication skills but also building the confidence needed to succeed in academia and the professional world.
Don’t let fear or self-doubt hold you back. The first step may be the most challenging, but it’s also the most transformative. So, seize every opportunity, participate in these activities with enthusiasm, and let your voice be heard. With each word you speak and every audience you engage, you’re inching closer to becoming the confident, influential speaker you aspire to be. Start now, and watch as your public speaking journey unfolds, revealing the remarkable communicator within you.
To seek professional guidance and mentorship for public speaking or Toastmasters, you can reach out to us over here.