CPD Week offers some public speaking tips to instil confidence in those taking on this daunting task

The thought of public speaking can fill even the most competent of teachers with horror. Is it the different audience – colleagues and peers rather than pupils – that shifts the experience from being familiar to frightening? Regardless of how you view public speaking, it’s likely that teachers and others working in schools will be doing a lot more of it in this age of focus on professional development. Here are some top tips for turning the fear into finesse when delivering your message.

  • The way that you think about public speaking will show in your voice. For example, if you are full of fear and dread, those listening will hear that in your delivery. If you think of it as something you enjoy – relish even – then that will be heard in your voice. There is nothing about public speaking which means that it must be stressful. It’s the way that we think of it that makes it so.
  • Cut yourself some slack and don’t aim for perfection. We all make mistakes when speaking to others and the perfect public speaker hasn’t yet been born! It is simply impossible to please everyone all of the time and as soon as you take that on board you free yourself up to brilliant.
  • Aim to build rapport with your audience, not by telling cheap jokes but by making eye contact, standing in an open posture, smiling (appropriately!) and so on.
  • Explain how your presentation will work. For example, do you want to take questions as you go along or wait until the end?
  • Plan, plan, plan. Make sure that there is value in each sentence. This will keep your presentation slick and worthwhile for listeners.
  • Don’t over-fill your presentation. You want to inspire listeners, not overload them. Less is usually more.
  • Keep a clear purpose for speaking in mind. That way you will stay on track and focussed.
  • Remember that the colleagues in your audience will appreciate how difficult it can be to speak in public. They know the differences between speaking to a class and speaking to your peers! They will want you to do well.
  • Be yourself and aim to enjoy it! This is far easier once you accept the fact that you cannot control the responses of those listening to you.

As a CPD coordinator it’s worth encouraging everyone to improve their public speaking skills so that your school can maximise the benefits of shared expertise.
  Find out more Many companies offer public speaking courses. It is worth finding out what is available in your area. It is also possible to improve your presentation skills through singing and drama ‘therapy’, so consider approaching the issue creatively by inviting an expert in for some workshops.

This article focuses on presenting to parents, but has useful transferable tips for presenting to any adult audience: Meetings and Presentations

Resource Bank for Every Child Matters The National College for School Leadership has launched a free online resource called ECM Leadership Direct. This is described as, ‘a new and dynamic open access resource for leaders specifically designed around the leadership challenges associated with the Every Child Matters (ECM) agenda.’ It draws on best practice to explain and explore the key components and relationships within the ECM agenda. The plan at this stage is for the resource to grow so that leaders and others can share knowledge and activities. It is hoped that this will lead to the development of thinking and practice within schools and communities.

ECM Leadership Direct offers:

  • Think pieces
  • Tools
  • Case studies
  • Publications

Find out more You can access ECM Leadership Direct here.

Let us know what you think about the resource by leaving a comment below.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in October 2007

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.