James Borrell is a biodiversity scientist and science communicator researching how people and nature can adapt to environmental change.

14 Tips for Speaking in Schools

Assuming you’ve managed to persuade a teacher to squeeze you in to the busy and dreaded curriculum (here’s some tips for that), then you’re currently ahead. Anything that isn’t a lesson will initially be seen as a good thing, so here’s a few tips for talking to an audience of students – from a recently ex-student.

1) Short and Sweet – better to leave an audience wanting more than to bore them with something too long.

2) Interact – Don’t speak at them, imagine that you’re simply telling your story to a group of friends.

3) Get a laugh or two – The sooner the better, but don’t be a joker.

4) Be Honest – Tell them the bits you wouldn’t tell your mum.

5) Encourage Questions – Being very familiar with your topic, means you sometimes forget the obvious questions in peoples minds, so encourage them.

6) Don’t tell them off – That’s the teachers job, and they will be far better at it than you – better to leave it to them, or to just wait a moment for things to quieten down.

7) Stick around at the end – Someone always has a question they are too shy to ask in front of the whole audience.

8 ) Keep it Simple – But speak to them as adults.

9) Pictures – They are a great focal point, use them to illustrate your talk, but don’t rely on them too much.

10) Keep writing to a minimum – A long paragraph or a dozen bullet points are a distraction, keep it to a minimum so they concentrate on what you have to say.

11) Take a prop – Ice axes and crampons are always a hit with the boys, adjust to your topic accordingly.

12) Eat Biscuits – Do make the most of staff room hospitality, this opportunity would have been unimaginable a few years ago.

13) Make it Achievable – Take the wildest ambition and make it seem quite manageable, that’s the privileged and responsibility of speaking in a school. Don’t make what you do sound too hard or special, that defeats the point.

14) Enjoy yourself – It’s not often you have a shot at inspiring a room full of people.


If anyone has any tips or suggestions then do add them to the comments. Lastly, it would be silly of me not to take this opportunity to say “hello!” to any teachers reading this article, please do get in touch!