Last week one of my students asked me to be an “audience” to help practice her speaking and listening exam. All I had to do was to listen to her speech, but I couldn’t just sit there could I? I had to intervene and give her some practical tips.
So while it’s all fresh in my mind, I want to share some of the things that worked for her. At the end of the article I have a link to my free speaking and listening cheat sheet to help you assess how good your presentation is. I have adapted it so that it is user friendly and anybody can use it. You don’t have to be a GCSE English student to use it either.
Know what you are going to say and in what order. Have a clear logical order for your speech so that it all fits together and flows smoothly. This means that you need to think carefully about linking your points – a bit like newsreaders do as they swap from newsreading – weather forecast – newsreading. They have to think of ways of making the transition effortless.
Dont’ try to memorise your whole speech. If you do this, you will sound like a robot and your speech won’t sound natural. If you forget some of your speech you will be fiddling around with your notes to find the bits you forgot and this won’t look good to the examiner. You will lose eye contact and end up panicking. Why don’t you have have memory prompts to jog your memory or questions to get you talking. Keep the prompts and questions simple.
Practice the speech in front of a person rather than in front of a mirror. A mirror can’t talk back to you, and it won’t tell you if your speech is boring. Look for signs of boredom from your audience (yawning and day-dreaming) and find ways of engaging the audience. The mirror will make you aware of your body language and facial expressions but these could change if you are in front of an examiner.
Listen to a recording of your speech. This will tell you how fast you talk, whether your speech is clear, whether you hesitate too much, whether you sound like a robot, whether you say “um” and “err” or “so” too much, whether your voice is shaky, whether you sound confident and if you know your speech well enough. Record your speech, and use this cheat sheet to grade your speech.