Public Speaking for Historians

Please note a change in date for this course! It will take place on Monday 7 November, NOT Tuesday 1 November as previously advertised.
Course date(s): 
7 Nov 2016
Course tutor(s): 
Jack Blackburn


Public speaking be it lecturing, conference papers, outreach activities or job presentations is the main medium by which we historians communicate our research. Clear, effective and professional communication skills are therefore absolutely essential to any aspiring academic. While we receive endless training in research skills, we are given little instruction in how to communicate effectively. Conferences can sometimes be painful experiences both for the audience and the speaker! In an age where we all have the potential to be our own broadcasters, and when there is increasing pressure to disseminate our work to a broader audience, it is never been so important for historians to hone their communication skills. This one-day workshop, taught by Dr Eliza Filby (KCL) and a trained professional actor, Jack Blackburn, is an interactive session, which fuses academic practice with acting techniques and is designed to enhance your confidence and understanding of oral communication. Our belief is that all those hours spent in the library and the archives are completely wasted if you are unable to communicate your research effectively.

To watch a video about the training offered, please click here

Course details

The basis of this workshop is different from most public speaking courses in that it is entirely practical and interactive; you will have the opportunity to try out the exercises, find what works for you, and given a series of exercises that you can tailor for your own specific needs and to any public speaking situation. 

The day will take place from 10.00 - 17.00 on Monday 7 November 2016 and will be divided into two halves: the acting session and the academic skills.


In the academic skills you will learn:

·         how to construct a paper to be said rather than read. How to make an impact and entertain the audience. How to inject your imagination and creativity into history. 

·         How to structure a speech, how to make historiography interesting, the appropriate use of language and imagery.

·         How to communicate the 'big idea' and how to best show off your research findings.

·         How NOT to do Powerpoint, the use of maps and other images.

·         Mastering the Q & A and how to ‘think on your academic feet’

·         Job presentations, media and outreach work.


In the ‘acting session’ you will cover:

·         body and vocal exercises including warm ups to combat nerves, relieve tensions and body language

·         Exercises to improve diction, resonance, range and articulation - how to find your voice and be heard even at the back of the conference hall

·         Utilizing ‘Alexander Technique’ to improve your posture and presence.

·         Advanced breathing techniques to maintain control and nerves during your performance

·         Text analysis work to engage and enliven even the most impenetrable of texts


At the end of the day, we will host a mock conference in which you will be given individual feedback on your performance and some helpful hints on where you can improve. Each participant will also receive an information pack after the course. 


About the Course leaders:

Dr Eliza Filby is a lecturer in Modern British History at King’s College London where she teaches on the politics of the 1980s. She has been involved in many outreach activities with schools, has written for the Telegraph and Standpoint magazine and regularly appears on the radio and TV as a historical commentator. She has taught public speaking to academics for over five years; clients include the universities of Oxford, Birmingham, King's College London, Liverpool and Manchester.  

Having studied Philosophy and Theology at Oxford, Jack Blackburn trained as an actor at East 15 Acting School. Since graduating, he has worked on stage, in commercials, on radio, and in education. He is also a writer, having written his debut short play in 2014, and also runs a satirical blog. 


All participants are required to prepare 150 words on an aspect of their research. It can be a section of a conference paper or a summary of your research. Please bring a printed copy as we shall be working on this throughout the day.  Do wear loose clothing and flat shoes as we shall be doing physical exercises.