Nine Ways to Lower the Stakes in Public Speaking Situations
Start by practicing in pairs, then standing in small groups, then in front of the class, then in front of a public audience.
Have students practice speaking seated before they stand in front of the class.
Offer students a limited set of 3 to 5 topic choices that range in difficulty, so that they aren’t overwhelmed by unlimited possibilities but also have a choice.
Have students practice their remarks all at once -- it’s noisy, but it makes them feel like they can blend in and no one is listening to them while they practice.
Practice remarks in class...a lot!
Run-through the Opening Walk
Have students practice walking up to the front of the room and feeling secure in their opening stance.
Increase the number of public speaking assignments so that they become less of a big deal.
When appropriate, incorporate self-assessment as part of the grade and adjust the weight of some public speaking assignments to take the pressure off.
Be Careful What You Ask For
Take care when you include requirements that raise the pressure, like requiring students to memorize their speech.