“Introduction to public speaking” I designed and taught


Always do what you are afraid to do.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Like most people, I am afraid of public speaking. I don’t know about most people, but my fear caused me to take public speaking courses. I took one online at edx.org and two at University of New Haven as part of my Fulbright FLTA program. Inspired by the courses I have taken, I designed and taught my own "Introduction to public speaking" course. In this post, I want to describe my course and share three incredible speeches made by my students.

The participants of the course were nine brave advanced learners of English. The course consisted of 6 classes meeting weekly from 17 March to 21 April. The participants had to make a speech each class. All the speeches had to be prepared at home.

Class 1. Introductory speech.

This speech was self-explanatory - people had to introduce themselves. My main goal was to let people get the taste of speaking in front of an audience. I also wanted them to meet each other. The participants of the course turned out to be such fascinating people that we had to have a Q&A session after each speech.

Class 2. Two-point speech based on a prompt.

I thought of this speech as a warm-up for more demanding speeches later in the course. I provided the prompts to speak on because I wanted to focus on the structure without having to worry about the topic. (One challenge at a time.)

The structure “Introduction - Point 1 - Point 2 - Conclusion” is a basic speech structure that works in many contexts and can easily be expanded. Here is an example of a prompt: “Online education will soon replace traditional universities.”

Because the speech was so simple and straightforward, we could start talking about the dos and don'ts of body language.

Class 3. Informative speech.

This was when things got interesting. The participants chose their own topics, so they went for something they were passionate about. As a result, the speeches were absolutely captivating.

This was also when we started recording the speeches so that the people could look at themselves and analyze their body language. It turned out that everybody had their own 'bad public speaking behaviors': some people kept holding on to a pen or a notebook throughout the speech, some were swaying from side to side, some hid their arms behind their back. Interestingly, the people had no idea they were doing these things. After watching the videos, they started working towards removing bad gestures and introducing better ones.

Class 4. Informative speech II.

Since informative speech was the first big speech which required a lot of preparation and subsequent analysis, I wanted to let the students have another go at it. This was the class when the participants made a major breakthrough. They improved significantly, addressing their weaknesses.

Class 5. Persuasive speech.

The hardest speech, in my opinion. The participants had to persuade the audience to start or stop doing something. Asking people to reconsider their habits or modify their behavior is almost an impossible job. But the participants were up to the task and persuaded us to do things. One immediate result was that all of us embarked on a 30-day plank challenge, which we are still in the middle of.

Class 6. Final speech.

The participants could make a speech of any type and on any topic. By the end of the course, everyone became noticeably more confident and comfortable speaking in front of an audience.

Throughout the course, the participants made some discoveries about themselves and the world. They got out of their comfort zones, survived and improved considerably. But that's enough out of me. Now I am proudly presenting my students' speeches.

#1 "Ignorance is killing us" (Nikita Videnkov, Class 3)
A compelling speech that debunks myths around GM foods and vaccinations.


#2 "Getting things done" (Alisa Chernikova, Class 4)
A practical speech about getting things done with the help of a special method developed by David Allen.


#3 "The grass is always greener on the other side" (Olga Kolesnikova, Class 6)
A philosophical speech about loving the grass on your side.


Public speaking is definitely not something you can learn to do by reading or watching. You have to pluck up your courage, stand in front of an audience and speak. Message me on VK or Facebook if you would like to take this course. I guarantee you will love the experience.

PS: I’m based in St Petersburg (Russia).

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