GRAD 5104 – Public Speaking Skills for Professors

Have you ever had a professor whose lectures were so boring you completely tuned out? When I was doing my master’s at the University of Waterloo, I took a certificate program in teaching in higher education administered through the university’s Centre for Teaching Excellence. In one of the workshops on teaching skills, we watched a YouTube video of a boring lecture from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The video was funny but having a professor like that is not, nor is becoming one yourself!

In my opinion, one of the best ways not to become like that professor is joining a local Toastmasters club and learning public speaking skills. I joined Toastmasters long time ago, before my university teaching experiences. That proved to be one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Toastmasters provides a friendly and supportive environment to practice public speaking and to master the art of communication. There is a series of manuals to work from and plenty of mentors and supporters to help you learn and thrive. Some of the skills you can expect to learn from Toastmasters and apply  in your teaching are the following:

  • Standing in front of your class and not freezing! The late actor George Jessel once said, “The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public”.
  • Engaging them with your eye contact and making them feel like you are speaking to them directly
  • Varying your pitch, volume, and speed to avoid monotonous voice
  • Asking them questions to get their attention and keep them engaged
  • Using hand gesture and body language to emphasize your messages
  • Organizing your lecture in a way that makes sense and is easy to follow
  • Using examples, statistics that they can relate with to communicate a message
  • Becoming in tune with your student engagement and adjusting your delivery accordingly

The best part of Toastmasters meetings is for every speaking exercise you do, you get constructive feedback so you can be a better communicator. If you think about it, the best professors you had is not the one with a long list of publications or awards. He or she was an excellent communicator. Be her or him with the help of Toastmasters.




  1. I agree! I am not a member of Toast Masters, but was strongly encouraged (forced) by my mom to enter the 4-H speech context every year from 6 to 12th grade. We got lots of practice and feedback. Between those speeches and giving weekly 1-hour tour during my internship at Disney World, I feel a lot more comfortable when I teach because I don’t get worried about public speaking.


    1. Bethany, your mother is smart for making you do that! So glad you had a positive experience and that it has made you a confident speaker. I hope you go back to it sometime. Public speaking is a life-long project!


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