I started a public speaking coaching business a couple of years ago and I did it because I remember how much it sucked when I was a kid. I would lament over a speech for days, hands sweaty and my voice stuck in my throat. My fat little fingers could barely hold the palm cards, they shook so much. My bladder would constrict and no matter how many times I went to the loo the pressure continued. I sweated from my hairline to my neck, beads of sweat dripping onto my page.
I soon realised that wasn’t happening to everyone in the class and it was something I had to fix. So I did. It wasn’t easy to start with, in fact, it was hideous. I pushed myself to speak at every opportunity and then slowly things starting to not suck so much.
So here are a couple of tips for you and your kids in case they are suffering from the same crippling fear.
Singing is like public speaking but can be way more fun. That said, singing is actually good practice for public speaking. Sing together in the car or pick up a secondhand karaoke machine so that your little one can practice reading and singing at the same time. Encourage your kid to play around with his or her voice and get comfortable with how it sounds (I apologise if this means singing Frozen songs over and over again):
- When your child can choose their own topic, encourage them to pick topics they are interested in.
- Help your child come up with interesting beginnings and endings to their speeches.
- Guide and work with them to research.
- Use palm cards. Young kids may like to try picture cues to help them remember each part of their speech. As they get older, plan the speech out and then pick the main points and put them on the cards.
- Record them doing their speech – that way they will be able to see their own performance. Your child will be much more likely to play along with public speaking practice if it feels like playing rather than a very serious undertaking. Try making it silly once or twice with an accent or a funny hat and practice bowing for applause in between readings too.
- Spend time listening to your child’s speech. Give them feedback and remember that working on this now will set them up for life.