Public speaking - from theory to practice

Sylvain PERRAUD,

Class description

Master students can choose to take an optional course in English, which is adapted to their level of English. However, since the minimum requirement for Master students is to be competent in giving a talk (with the aid of a visual support), to be able to take notes and summarise the contents of a lecture and to be able to read with ease, obligatory lessons are provided for those students who have not mastered these skills at the B2 level of the Common European Framework.

While the "rules" of public speaking are simple, actually integrating all the "good ideas" to the point at which they become one's own, in order to successfully transmit any information to any audience is not as simple as it might seem. The public speaking course is firmly anchored in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) department - thus the transferable public speaking techniques, which are the main focus of the lessons, are in fact a pretext for improving the English of the participants. This follows the Dogme school of EFL, where the language work is based entirely on the "emergent language" of the participants.

Lessons contents

The 24 hours public speaking class, with a maximum number of 12 participants, provides the participants with a step-by-step hands-on experience of the importance of:

  • using the visual channel to its full potential
  • body language and eye contact
  • the construction of the presentation
  • markers and transitions
  • pacing the talk
  • the importance of rehearsing beforehand
  • the impact of the conclusion
  • tips and tricks to boost confidence
  • handling questions from the audience
  • etc.
The integration of these techniques is reinforced by the observation of each other, of themselves - the participants are repetitively filmed for this purpose - and of professional speakers.

The students are invited to use the pretext of these classes to either review in depth some specific aspect of their instruction or on the contrary, to look into some subject more loosely connected with their main subject in order to inform and entertain their colleagues in the class.

Grading Policy

The course requirements include the submission of a courselog, in which the student has recorded each week what they have individually learnt from the lesson, with a record of the new vocabulary encountered and how it is used. The final exam consists of a talk given in the presence of the class, the English teacher and a subject specialist teacher.


The Public speaking techniques are based on the experience of the teacher (as twice published in Physics World in the 90s) and inspired by professional communicators such as Cliff Atkinson and EFL teachers such as Mark Powell.

Further reading:


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