Public Speaking 101: How the MasterClass was Born

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By Christina Ngo, Class of 2019

Forgetting the words I wanted to say in English was my biggest fear when presenting in front of clients. It's because English is not my first language. It's not even my second language. I first noticed this fear in grade school. Back then, I used to be so shy that I couldn't even make eye contact with my classmates. Then one day I saw Oprah Winfrey on TV and became inspired. I started wishing that one day, I could speak like her – so confidently and passionately. After college, I joined Toastmasters, and before I knew it, I fell in love with public speaking.

Early on in my time at Booth, I felt there weren’t enough opportunities for students to practice presenting in public. So I thought to myself, "why don't I create the class I’ve always wanted to take?" I imagined a class that was fun and interactive, with exercises that helped people feel comfortable speaking in front of large crowds. Luckily, my Public Speaking and Communications Group (PSCG) co-chair Nakul Gupta (’19) shared my vision. We collected ideas from top public speakers and improv classes to design our brand-new curriculum on the go. We called it MasterClass.

In truth, we were flying by the seat of our pants! There were days when Nakul and I would look at each other, no content ready for the next class, which was hardly a week away. Still, our journey so far has been exhilarating. We’ve experienced the highs of seeing how students loved and benefited from our classes, as well as the lows of being anxious about what we should teach next. A quarter and a class in, I want to share some lessons from teaching the MasterClass:

Find someone who supports your vision

Nakul sees things differently from me, which allows him to play devil’s advocate and challenge my position. However, we both share a belief in practice and repetition. We spend hours drilling each other on delivery and messaging until we get it just right. This energy and preparation allows us to deliver a better class.

Nakul and Christina, PSCG co-chairs, demonstrate how to use pauses effectively

Nakul and Christina, PSCG co-chairs, demonstrate how to use pauses effectively

Mindset is everything

Motivating each other before teaching a class has become a ritual. Nakul would say that our session is going to be amazing and I would tell him that the students will love it. Having constant positive feedback helped us build the confidence to do something we have never done before and visualize our success. Once we believed in ourselves, we knew that our body language would follow.

Have a conversation with your audience

Thomas Egbert (’19) practices speaking without using filler words

Thomas Egbert (’19) practices speaking without using filler words

After observing numerous presentations, I realized that connecting with the audience was essential. People don't respond well to demands or being talked at. They want you to share your knowledge conversationally. Once your audience appreciates you, they will root for your success. It's not about being smarter than them, it's about being confident in yourself and providing value to the others.

The feedback for our class has been overwhelmingly positive. It made all those hours that Nakul and I spent obsessively perfecting the MasterClass worth it. In the end, we succeeded by helping our classmates become comfortable with being uncomfortable and having fun along the way.