If you thought public speaking was just all about you sharing ideas on a huge stage in a huge venue in front of hundreds of people, well, let me tell you that that’s not really an accurate description of public speaking. Public speaking refers to a speaker talking in front of a crowd. That crowd doesn’t have to be composed of hundreds or thousands of people. In fact, you can have as little as two to three people listening to you, and that can still be considered public speaking.
In other words, based on this definition, a teacher in a classroom is considered a public speaker. So, if you’re planning to be a teacher and you know for a fact that you’re scared of public speaking, you need to do something as early as now about that fear.
Can You Be A Teacher If You Don’t Like Public Speaking?
Some might argue, well, I can still be a teacher even if I don’t like speaking in front of an audience.
Well, you can. But you won’t be an effective teacher. If you don’t like speaking in the first place, you might end up not doing your due diligence as a teacher to get your students to understand important concepts. You might only end up just telling them to read the material, then expect them to pass the exam on D-day. You might not even show up in class because you didn’t prepare a lesson plan.
People who don’t like public speaking can be teachers, sure. But their teaching performance might end up just becoming mediocre at best.
Why Public Speaking Is Important To Teachers?
You see, in a classroom where all the students can hear and speak, teaching and public speaking are inextricably linked. How do teachers use public speaking? Well, the only way you can teach your students the basics of, say, biology, is for you to talk in front of them. Sure, you might be able to teach them the basic concepts by showing them pictures of a cell.
But what about the process by which a cell works? I doubt you’d be able to explain that properly to them with just a diagram they might not even understand. At the very least, you’d need to explain what the diagram is about.
If you really want to make a mark on your students, you need public speaking and should want to improve in that area. Good educators are necessarily good public speakers. They don’t take a student’s nod for a yes or even a “Yes, I understand” as a “Yes, I truly understand.” They explain what needs to be explained without being forced to do so until the student grasps the concepts fully. Because they feel a sense of fulfillment when the people they teach actually learn a lot from them.
Lastly, students will grasp information better when you are engaging and captivating. If students are sitting at their desks bored out of their minds by the manner in which the information is presented, there will be nothing retained in the minds of your students. That is an environment where learning will not exist! So knowing what to "say" and "how" to say it is a key.
Tips To Overcome Fear of Public Speaking If You Want To Be (An Effective) Teacher
If you still want to be an effective teacher even after everything I said, great! Now all you need to do is assess whether you fear (and like) public speaking or not. If you love public speaking, then good for you! If you fear public speaking, don’t worry. Here are strategies you can follow:
1. Commit to Personal Development
If you have ever wondered how a great speaker came to be that way, I can tell you that it was not because they were born that way. In my previous article "Is Public Speaking An Inborn Talent or A Learn Skill", it highlights some of the greatest speakers like Warren Buffet and Steve Jobs had a fear of public speaking, but took courses and had coaches to assist them in becoming great speakers.
For you, practice is a great start but it's not the finish. Commit to learning more about public speaking; the tools and techniques to help speakers become engaging, captivating, and memorable. The same tools and techniques that help them present information in a clear and concise manner, even to a group of young kids.
2. Write a lesson plan and practice
When TED speakers go out there and make their presentations, they don’t just make an impromptu speech. They prepared a script and studied it to the letter days before. What they articulate on D-Day is their script. That’s why their presentations are logically sequenced. They had proper planning.
That’s what you need, too. You need to create a lesson plan, as your script is called, study it, and then practice articulating it on your own. You can do that in front of a mirror or in front of other people, whatever works for you. Remember that you don’t need to parrot your lesson plan to the letter. You just need to make sure you get the flow of your presentation right (note, it should be the flow you should be concerned about, not the word-for-word articulation of your lesson plan). Practice as many times as you need until you know the flow like the palm of your hand.
You might ask, but what does preparing for your presentation in class have to do with overcoming your fear of public speaking in the first place? Well, you see, when you feel you’re prepared for class, your confidence level increases. You feel you can conquer the world because you’ve done everything in your power to make sure everything goes right on that day and present you end up presenting like Tony Robbins or Brian Tracy.
3. Create visual aids
Creating visual aids for class can help you overcome your fear of public speaking, too. The rationale here is the same as the one I mentioned in the first point: If you feel prepared, your confidence levels increase. There’s no reason to feel scared when you’ve made all the necessary preparations, after all.
Make sure your visual aids complement your lesson plan. There are many ways to go about this. You can create a Powerpoint presentation, for instance. If you opt for this, here’s a nice video you can watch from Presentation Process to get tips on how to create a good Powerpoint presentation:
You can also opt to use just index cards for your own consumption. So, once you’re speaking in front of your class and you forget something, you can just refer to those cards to check what you were supposed to say.
Make sure you can easily see what you wrote on those cards, of course. I suggest you just write bullet points so when you forget something, one look at the cards and the main ideas will pop out. You wouldn’t need to read through the entire cards to determine where you are in your presentation.
For more information surrounding this topic, feel free to check out the article, "What Are Some Common Problems In Using Powerpoint?"
4. Give yourself a pep talk
Before you face your class, it helps if you give yourself a pep talk. You just need to remind yourself that there’s really nothing to be afraid of. First of all, your students aren’t there to judge you. They’re there to learn from you. You know your biology, math, or any other subject you teach, so why should you be afraid of speaking in front of your students in the first place?
Remind yourself, too, that the class isn’t really about you. It’s about your students. When you remind yourself of this important fact, it’ll be easier for you to shift your focus from fearing what other people will think of you, to giving value to your students.
5. Take deep breaths
Even if you tell yourself you’re not scared, if the body feels you are, it will trigger a response that manifests as symptoms of fear. Once you feel these symptoms–the shaking of hands, the trembling voice, and the rapid heartbeat, for instance—you might end up becoming more scared of speaking in front of your class in the first place.
The good news is, there’s a way you can do away with those symptoms. You just need to convince your body that you’re not under any threat at all. That’s where deep breaths can help you. According to Webmd, when you do deep breathing exercises, you tell your body that you’re safe. The body then activates the parasympathetic system, which leads to your body relaxing. And when your body is relaxed, well, you are, too.
Try doing some exercise before speaking in front of your class. The exercise won’t just help get your blood flowing to the brain and make you more mentally and physically alert. It will also help get your mind off that class presentation.
You can go for a short walk, do some push-ups, jog in place, whatever works for you. Just make sure you give yourself enough time to go to the bathroom and freshen up afterwards. You wouldn’t want to face your students with all that sweat dripping down your forehead, would you?
Want To Be A Teacher But Scared of Public Speaking: Final Thoughts
If you want to be a teacher, you need to overcome that fear of public speaking. In a classroom where everyone hears and talks, public speaking and teaching are inextricably linked. If you want to be a good educator, you need to be a good speaker, too.
The good news is, there are ways you can overcome this fear. You learned some of those tips from this article. Create a lesson plan and practice, come up with visual aids, give yourself a pep talk, and take deep breaths before your class presentation. Finally, do some exercise to get the blood flowing to your brain and distract you in a good way.
You don’t need to follow all these tips at once. Outside of the number 1 tip of 'Committing to Personal Development' (This is a Must!), just choose the ones that you think will work the best for you and see how that goes on your first day of teaching. If they worked fine, great!
If they didn’t, then choose a different combination of strategies. Just use the trial-and-error method to arrive at the perfect combination of strategies. You’ll see how public speaking becomes a little bit easier. And you’ll be that effective and fearless teacher you’ve always wanted to be.
For more resources to develop your public speaking skills while you are in the comforts of your own home, please check the articles Online Resources for Public Speaking and Where Can I Learn Public Speaking. If you would like to leverage the best presentation software for your next big speaking engagement please read the article 'Best Presentation Technology tools'.