Anyone who’s had a class where participation marks are part of your grade knows the pressure and fear of speaking up. Participating will not only get you full marks in the class, but also allow you stay engaged and learn more. Luckily it gets easier once you get the ball rolling. Here are a few tips on how to make speaking up easier.
1. Know your material
It sounds cliché with everyone telling you to “come to class prepared”, but they have a point. Having even a moderate grasp of that week’s material gives you an advantage when you are trying to think of things to say in class. As an added bonus you’ll be able to build on your knowledge by coming to class! It all works together: studying, becoming more involved in your class, and getting better grades.
2. Start talking
The hardest part is often getting your foot in the door. Once you start talking it becomes easier because you feel a part of the conversation. Participating in the discussion also helps keep you engaged in the class (i.e. awake).
Bonus tip: Speak loudly, clearly, and confidently! Avoiding the use of “ums” and “likes” goes a long way. Whatever you say will sound important, and be more respected, when you back your comment up with a steady voice.
3. Avoid the “oh, what they said” at all costs
We all hate those group situations where everyone has to say something, but try not to replicate the points someone has already said. This has two unfortunate side effects: It devalues your input, and makes you look like a copycat.
Luckily there are some easy fixes! Even if your idea has already been raised, try to put a different spin on it or come from another angle. A slight change in perspective goes a long way when you don’t announce it’s resemblance to someone else’s answer.
Furthermore, thinking up something original demonstrates two things: An ability to work under pressure, and your creative imaginative potential.
4. Come with a few questions in mind & ask them
Asking a question is a simple way to become more involved in the discussion, while allowing the person who answers to do most of the talking. You should make sure you have a bit of an idea of the class material and topic beforehand so that you don’t look silly for asking a question that was obviously answered in that week’s readings. – You can, however, ask for clarification.
For example, if I raised my hand in tutorial and asked “what is Political Economy”, when the reading for that week was titled “Defining Political Economy”, I would look pretty unprepared. However, even if I didn’t really read the article, asking a question like “Can you help clarify the main features of Political Economy” sounds a lot more intelligent.
5. Get to know the people in your class
Becoming acquainted with the people around you will help you feel more comfortable speaking in front of them. Try chatting up your Prof, TA, or fellow peers before or after class. Having a few familiar faces in the room make it much easier to speak up.
I hope this helped you get some ideas for how to increase your class presence. To get you started, I challenge you to speak up in the next group situation you’re in. Respond to a question, ask one, or just say what’s on your mind!
Do you have any suggestions or other tips for participation and public speaking? Mention them in the comments below!