Public Speaking Training Suggestions | Public Speaking | Gesture


W H A T I S T H I S PA P E R A B O U T ?

You want to improve your skills in public speaking? In this paper I will focus on the following two suggestions for efficient training: • • Use a webcam for training. Choose an aspect of your speaking skills you would like to improve - like the sound of your voice, your posture or your gestures. Then make this aspect the topic of a little impromptu speech in front of the webcam.


Why use a webcam? Here are some good reasons: • • A webcam provides a good and rather objective impression of your voice, your facial expression and your gestures. In courses on public speaking you will often get little time for practising and only limited feedback, and even after getting feedback, it's sometimes difficult to try out an improvement at once. With a webcam, you can focus on these topics as long and as detailed as you like. In particular, you can go through any number of loops between practising a skill and studying the recorded results afterwards. You can use a webcam over a long period of time, while a course on public speaking is normally a matter of very few days. An ordinary webcam is much cheaper than the fee for a course on public speaking.

• •

Obviously, training with a webcam has a number of serious shortcomings, most importantly the lack of qualified feedback from a professional trainer. But watching a video of yourself will probably show a number of issues in your speaking style that you can improve dramatically on your own. How to use a webcam? Here is what works well for me.You may want to adapt it. • • • • • Put the camera on eye level. Stay at least one metre away from the camera to avoid distorted images of your face. The camera should look at you from a similar perspective as an audience would. The camera should capture at least the upper part of the body, not only head and shoulders. A standing position is preferable - it shows the position and movements of arms, swaying of the upper body and so on.


In training your public speaking skills, it seems a good idea to focus on a very small number of issues at a time. The basic idea is to make these items the topic of little impromptu speeches you are giving in front of your webcam.


This means that you are talking about speaking - which may seem rather artificial and unhealthily self-referential. On the other hand, it has a number of advantages, as I hope to point out in a moment. We begin with two examples. First, let's take your voice modulation. Your impromptu speech in front of the webcam may go as follows: "Ladies and gentleman, in this little speech I want to focus on my voice modulation. Normally, it's very monotonous, putting even the most interested audiences to sleep. But I KNOW I can do better. I CAN emphasize single words, or even CHAINS OF WORDS. I CAN put more PASSION into my sentences. I CAN - - use pauses - much - more - frequently. And while I'm trying all this, I discover, that SOME things work well -- and others don't." During this, the content of your speech and your speaking behaviour should interact, so you actually use emphasis and pauses, as I tried to indicate by capital letters and dashes. Some things will feel awkward, others natural and good, and you can go on with them. In our second example, you may want to focus on your posture and gestures like this: "Ladies and gentlemen, now I'm trying to improve my gestures. At this moment, my hands are clenched in front of my stomach, which feels not relaxed, and this probably shows. As a first try, I let my arms hang losely beside my body. This feels awkward, so I lift my right hand. I can now accompany my words with gestures, which feels fairly natural..." All this is again accompanied by the respective actions. So what are the advantages of this procedure? • Remember you are dealing with a training situation, and you want to make the most of it! You want to improve aspects of your public speaking style, so it is much easier if you concentrate on this without the distraction of a completely different topic in your speech. Your main interest at the moment is your voice modulation - and not the pros and cons of genetical engineering! As soon as you feel comfortable with an aspect of your speaking behaviour, you can go on and make speeches on real topics. The matching between the content of your speech and your actions allows a lot of experiments: Lift your arms, fold your hands, point with your fingers - things you normally wouldn't do if you had to focus on a specific topic. Your immediate impressions during your speech and studying the webcam video afterwards will direct you to a speaking behaviour that you feel comfortable with and that looks natural to your audience.


My name is Thomas Teepe. I was born in 1971 in Ibbenbüren (Germany). After having studied math and physics in Münster I finished my doctoral thesis in math on Genetic Algorithms in 2001. I am now working as an actuarial consultant in Stuttgart. In addition, I'm giving courses on problem solving and project management at several institutions in the Stuttgart area.

Here is a short history of this document: Date September 2008 July 2009 Changes First version • • • More details on how to use the webcam document history minor improvements


I'm grateful to Stefan Gora for some detailed feedback on the first version. I would like to include further reader feedback, so I'm delighted if you contact me. Dr. Thomas Teepe Alosenweg 37 70329 Stuttgart Germany

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful