A focused close-up of a microphone positioned in front of a medium-sized, out-of-focus crowd

Public speaking. Some like it, most hate it. But going in prepared can make a world of difference. Here are five key concepts to get familiar with before you start COMS 101 at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo that might make your first quarter a little bit easier.

Be sure to also check out 10 of the Easiest Classes at Cal Poly SLO

1. Everybody sucks at first. It’s ok.

Gordon Ramsey saying,

When you give your first speech in COMS 101 on the second day of class, you’ll probably end up stuttering and stammering to no end. You’ll be nervous and have no idea what you’re doing. But afterwards, your teacher will tell you that it’s ok. You’re supposed to “moderately suck,” to use her words. You’ll still get full credit and a bunch of pointers to help make your next speech better. The moral of the story? You’re expected to suck at something the first time you try it, and that’s ok.

2. You have to actually try. For real.

Flamboyant man saying,

“But it’s a GE! Nobody tries in their GE’s!” Yeah, you’re not wrong, but this one actually takes some effort. Your final grade isn’t just an average of your scores, it’s also based on how much you improved over the course of the quarter. And to get better at this stuff, you have to actually practice. Running through each speech at least 2-3 times a day for 2-3 days leading up to your speech will make a huge difference in your delivery.

3. Read the book.

You start off the year strong, reading every chapter as your teacher assigns them. It’s easy to follow along in class and understand what was going on. Towards the middle of the quarter, however, you’ll probably start to slack off and only do part of the reading, eventually stopping altogether. More likely than not, you’ll immediately notice that you get confused in class and don’t understand what your teacher is talking about, and everything suddenly becomes much, much harder. And most COMS 101 teachers aren’t the kind to review the reading in class, writing it off as a waste of time. So if you don’t do the reading, you’re actually screwed.

4. Don’t wait till the last minute.

A cartoon figure screaming loudly

Here’s the truth. If you really, really try, you can pull off a speech the day before. But it will totally suck the life out of you, and your delivery the next day will probably suck because of the little sleep you got because you were cramming to finish your speech. Also, for some speeches, you need to make a PowerPoint, poster board, or some other form of presentation aid, and those take way longer to make than you’d think they would. Start at least a week in advance.

5. See your teacher as your friend, not your enemy.

Preteen with eyes looking up in anger saying,

This is probably the most important takeaway of this article. Your teacher is the most helpful resource you have, and taking advantage of the wealth of knowledge they have for you will make you do so much better in the class. Plus, you have to spend the next ten weeks with them no matter what, so hating them will just make you miserable.


Some parting words:

COMS 101 is doable. But it won’t be your average do-the-bare-minimum-and-pass kind of class. If you accept your imperfections, put in time and effort, read the book, don’t procrastinate, and use your teacher as a resource, you’ll do great (and you might even have some fun along the way.)

Dylan Moreland

I'm a first-year Industrial Engineering major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I love to sing in the Polyphonics advanced choir and (attempt to) play guitar, piano, and ukulele every now and then. I also work to develop the website for the SLO Hacks hackathon in February 2018.

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