Public Speaking Practice


  • To improve public speaking skills
  • To try out new public speaking tactics


  • List of random topics for public speeches
  • Many copies of books that participants can read from (can be textbooks, children’s books, or anything in between but Dr. Seuss books work particularly well)
  • Paper (4 pieces)
  • Markers
  • Index cards

Prepare Before

Make 4 signs: Volume/Diction, Body Language, Tone, & Speed. Place a sign at 4 different tables in the room to create 4 stations. Place books at all stations except the Body Language station. Write one emotion per each index card (e.g., happy, sad, angry, scared, terrified, overjoyed, nervous, irritated). Place these emotion cards at the Tone station.

Warm Up

How do you feel when you hear you have to speak in public? Confident?  Awkward?  Nervous?  Calm?


Today we are practicing different elements of public speaking.  The topic doesn’t matter — we are trying to focus on the skills.

Set up four stations around the room and divide the group into four teams.  Each team will spend ten minutes at each station.  Their job is to make sure everyone gets at least one turn.  At some stations, you will be able to practice many times.

STATION 1: Volume/Diction

At this station, everyone should be in two lines, facing each other, about 10 feet apart.  Participant #1 says one sentence from their book, loud enough and clear enough that Participant #2 can hear it.  Participant #2 has to repeat the phrase back so that Participant #1 can hear it.  Then each participant goes to the back of the line.

STATION 2: Body Language

Everyone at the station pairs up and faces each other.  Decide who will speak first.  The first person will talk, and the second person will mirror back every detail of their body language (e.g., any facial expressions and movements).

First topic:  What did you do yesterday?  Give as much detail as possible.

Second topic:  Describe your day tomorrow.  What will it be like?  What do you think will happen?


One person takes an emotion card without telling their teammates what the card says. They will read from a book in that emotion.  Although they may use non-verbal gestures, try to use your voice as much as possible to convey the emotion.   Read for one minute in that emotion.

STATION 4: Speed

Each person will read for 1-2 minutes.  The next person in line will “control” their speed by telling them “faster” or “slower”  several times.  Give the speaker time to experience each stage before changing the speed.  The group will tell the speaker when they have found the right speed where they can easily understand the speaker.


Facilitate a discussion with the following reflection questions:

  • Which station was the strangest for you?
  • Which was the easiest?
  • Which technique do you use already when you speak (i.e., volume, tone, body language, speed)?


When we speak, most people respond to our body language and how we say our words much more than what we are saying.  If we want people to hear what we say, we have to practice and focus on tone, speed, body language, and volume.  All of these are tools that you can use to your advantage.


Now we are going to practice in pairs.

Note: If you know your research topic already, they should speak on a topic that is relevant to their research (e.g., why this topic matters to our community, why this topic matters to me).  If you haven’t picked a topic yet, select 4-6 topic ideas that participants can pick from.

In pairs, participants will choose their topic and prepare for 1-2 minutes what they want to say, focusing on tone, volume, diction, speed, and nonverbal cues.  They will speak for one minute, and then pause to get feedback from their partner.  Feedback should focus on these skills and might include things like speak more slowly,  enunciate, speak with even more emotion, notice your nonverbal body language.  With that feedback, they will speak for another minute on the topic and get feedback again from their partner.

Then partners will switch.

Repeat as needed, switching partners to get feedback from many people.