Public speaking is a skill that is beneficial throughout one’s life. Warren Buffett calls it an ‘asset’. Especially, in this age where every person is judged based on how well they can converse.
Have you ever felt your hands sweat, body shake and jittery feeling in your stomach when you have to face a large audience? Have you wondered why this happens?
This may happen because you are not well prepared and can’t anticipate how people will react to you. Public speaking works on breaking this anticipation and assures the person.
Purpose of public speaking for children
As a child, I used to participate in extracurricular activities like skits, speeches, annual functions etc. All these are social activities that build the personality.
Public speaking is also a social activity. It reinforces the child’s confidence and promotes personal development. Children learn to perceive people, their behaviour and their reaction to what is being said.
Predominantly, you may have witnessed that your child may not mix up well with other children when you go out. An awkward silence may fall within the group of children. This is because they may not know how to start a conversation or interact with other kids.
Be it a conversation with friends, teachers or family, children should be able to express their thoughts. Public speaking trains children to capture their audience’s attention with the skills they have learnt and voice their opinions openly.
Importance of public speaking at a young age
Children are prone to learn fast when they are young and inexperienced as compared to when they are older. As they say, “Catch them young”.
Let’s take the example of Simon. We don’t see many children up there where Simon is at such a young age. This is the start. As you can note, Simon is not a developed speaker. He does face issues in delivering his speech.
For instance, he pauses or stops but then picks up the pace again and continues his speech. This is because he is still learning and practising. With time, he will become fluent in his language, articulation, and inflexion.
10 benefits of public speaking for kids
1. Growth and evolvement of communication
“If I went back to college again, I’d concentrate on two areas: learning to write and to speak before an audience. Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate effectively.”-Gerald R. Ford
Communication is interrelated with public speaking. Without communication, your thoughts and ideas cannot be put to use. It helps us translate what’s in our mind out to the listener.
Communication includes both:
Children who face difficulty in communication are often (wrongly) deemed incapable by society. They are cornered and this makes them think less of themselves.
Public speaking develops confidence which pushes children to face their fears. You will find that public speaking is a far-reaching skill in all areas of life.
2. Constructs listening skills
‘Why do you think we listen?’ We listen because we have something to respond to, something to understand, something to gain knowledge from and most importantly something to learn.
There is a difference between ‘hearing’ and ‘listening’. Hearing is perceiving noises through the ear while on the other hand, listening is being aware of those noises and understanding what those noises are.
Hearing happens naturally but listening is something that you choose to do. In the process of hearing, the information may be communicated but not understood. The information can only be understood if you listen. Public speaking improves your listening skills.
In the journey of public speaking, often speakers may have to acknowledge critical questions from the audience. This is when the listening skills come to aid.
Similarly, when children learn public speaking they develop the appropriate listening skills to know the correct response to different situations.
3. Progress in vocabulary and pronunciation
Pronunciation and vocabulary are correlated and depend on one another. For instance, if your pronunciation is incorrect, then the vocabulary that you know will not be effective.
With the help of public speaking children progress in both these areas. How? Daily practice in speeches, writing practice and proper guidance in delivery may improve their pronunciation and let them discover new vocabulary.
4. Critical analysis and thinking
What is critical thinking? In simple words, critical thinking is analyzing information, interpreting that information and using it to solve problems and come to a conclusion.
Once the child starts the journey of public speaking his imaginative power expands. For instance, when they prepare for a speech or any content, they have to research.
Research broadens their scope of knowledge and they learn about new things and topics. Gradually they set out to analyze text and can differentiate between right and wrong.
Problem-solving is a type of critical thinking. For example, if you face a problem you will take quick action and solve the problem using the knowledge you have gained. Public speaking prepares you to deal with such situations with ease.
5. Children become opinionated
Public speaking nurtures the child to form opinions. Once children acquire judgment they start to form opinions of their own. They can distinguish between morals.
Their conscience has started to develop and these are signs of them evolving. The child learns to take a stand for what he thinks is right and wrong. This step is critical in decision making.
Having an opinion of your own is an implication of individual identity. If a child has an opinion and puts forth that opinion in front of others he/she gains immense respect and appreciation.
6. Power of persuasion (P²)
“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Persuasion is used in everyday life, even in the smallest things. For example, children persuade their parents through crying. They cry and throw a tantrum if they want something, and parents are unwilling to see their child cry and give into these tantrums.
There are many such examples, like convincing your parents to go on a trip, a salesman convincing the buyer to buy a product etc. This is persuasion, convincing someone to believe in what you want.
Using persuasion may urge the audience to take action. Check out our article, “A Comprehensive Guide to Writing a Persuasive Speech”. This article will help you write a persuasive speech.
7. Planning, organization and leadership qualities
Right from planning the speech to executing there is a long procedure that takes place. With the help of organization and planning, one can execute this procedure. Public speaking shapes children in such a way that they become remarkable planners and organizers.
For example, children learn to organize their research material and then structure their speech accordingly. Consequently, they prepare themselves to answer questions from the audience, if there are any.
They also possess leadership qualities. What are the qualities you would like to see in a leader? Some qualities are mentioned below:
Public speaking helps the children to learn these skills; it teaches them to take control in a roomful of people. A Good public speaker= A capable leader.
8. Growth in academics
Becoming a proficient speaker will make you a proficient student. When you achieve the capability to speak in front of an audience, you develop the ability to speak in class.
For example, the child starts to participate in class; answering questions, volunteering in discussions and being active throughout the year.
The child is already learning so much that his brain is developing faster as compared to a child who is not taking any extra effort to increase his skill. Public speaking contributes to the classroom success of the child. The extra effort does indeed make a difference.
9. Job opportunities
After you complete your education, the next phase of your life starts. It is to find a job. A child who is accomplished in public speaking will get the first preference in a job as compared to someone who isn’t adept with the subject.
Why? This is because public speaking is altogether a diverse experience that provides dynamic development. Besides, a child who is a public speaker has notable communication skills which are the basic job criteria.
10. Social Connections
Presentations, speeches, talks, and workshops are good places to find people who share similar interests and mindsets. When you give a speech, you are essentially conversing with the audience. You are letting them peek into your personality.
The moment you step down, people will come to either congratulate you, question you or talk to you. This way you start direct interaction with the people and make social connections.
Social connections help career development. So, public speaking helps children progress in their career.
How do you teach public speaking to children?
There are multiple ways in which you can teach your child public speaking. Try to add some of these to their daily routine.
Children are more likely to pay attention to videos rather than books. The attention span of a 2-year old is barely 4-6 minutes and this increases with their age. So use this time preciously and use fun methods to engage them in learning public speaking.
Make them watch movies, animated videos on YouTube, tutorials etc. Children always get attracted to colour and movement so they will pay attention to visual learning with curiosity.
2. Teach them through games
Games are one thing that children always love to play and especially if there is a group. Teaching through games becomes stimulating because children may not even realize that they are learning.
Don’t just explain, show your child how to play the game. One example is ‘Show and tell’.
Show and tell is a fun activity where you convince the children to bring any object; it can be a toy, a plant, a pencil, anything that the child treasures. Then, the child has to talk about it or share an incident with that object in front of the group.
This game is often played with preschoolers as it is an initiation towards public speaking. Mentioned below are some games that can help your child in public speaking:
- Tongue twister
- The noun game
- Puzzles and Scrabble
- Complete the story
- The Guessing Game
3. Record the child’s rehearsal
Children are not aware of how they sound, appear or move when they deliver a speech. They don’t bother with body language or intonation. To make them familiar with these aspects, record their rehearsal.
Show them what you recorded and let them see for themselves how they appear. This way the next time that they rehearse they will keep in mind not to repeat those mistakes.
This will make them work hard towards their shortcomings and improve their elocution. Besides, they will be able to eliminate filler words such as, ‘okay’, ‘um’, ‘uh’ etc.
4. Praise the child and give affirmative feedback
Children always need approval from others in whatever they do. You may have noticed that every 2 seconds the child will come and ask his mother or any adult around him ‘if this is okay?
This is because the child is confused 80% of the time and may not know if what he is doing is right or wrong. They may not come to one conclusion and may need the help of a second person.
If an adult praises them or gives them affirmative feedback, the children become certain and assured that whatever they are doing is right and they are on the correct path. Positive feedback encourages them to learn more.
At an early age, you may have observed that children tend to imitate others. Be it their parents, teachers or people around them. Mimesis is also known as imitation and can be used as a method of teaching.
In this technique, children imitate the gestures, pronunciation, expressions and way of speaking of the orator and then try to deliver similarly.
This way children learn public speaking effortlessly and are likely to avoid minor mistakes. Narration is one such example. Parents can narrate stories and ask the children to focus on their body language and way of speaking.
I want to share a little anecdote from when I was a kid. My mother is a keen reader and she always encouraged me to read. From a very young age, she bought books that had pictures of animals, birds, transport and all sorts of theme books.
Even though I couldn’t read at that time, she made me look at the pictures and spelt the words out loud. Gradually, I started to catch words and then tried to pronounce them myself. The keyword is ‘tried’. Eventually, I could articulate the words clearly.
With time she bought storybooks and made me read them loudly so that she could correct me if I made mistakes. All these little things help make the bigger picture.
7. Enrol them in coaching programs
If you want your child to socialize and be in an environment with other children you can opt for professional training. Coaching programs have a completely different atmosphere than the school or home.
Your child will learn new things under the guidance of the trainers. Another alternative is one on one coaching. This may cost you a bit but your child will get personal attention.
In times like these where everything is done through the mode of technology, especially online, there are many workshops, classes and webinars which conduct teaching sessions. You can enrol your child in these online sessions.
What causes fear of public speaking in children?
“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than delivering the eulogy.”-Jerry Seinfeld
Glossophobia or fear of public speaking is a social anxiety that includes stage fright, communication apprehension and performance anxiety. This speech anxiety is seen in 75% of the normal population and more in children.
Stomach cramps, pounding heart, shaky voice are a few signs of this fear. Multiple reasons have come up to explain why a person fears public speaking, let’s have a look at some of them.
Conformity can be considered as an unrecognized fear of public speaking. What is conformity? To conform is to fit in a particular group.
It refers to the pressure to behave in ways constant with norms implying how one should, or ought to, behave. This concern of fitting in may raise the fear of public speaking in the children.
Children want to please others and not become a laughing stock. But the fear of conformity stops them from speaking up in front of an audience.
The technical meaning of this term is exclusion from a society or group, but when linked with public speaking it means the fear of being left out or kicked out.
In other words, it is rejection. Research suggests that rejection is one of the most powerful emotions and may have a greater effect than fear.
Children fear that if they don’t deliver in a certain way then they will be excluded from the group and the audience will not accept them. This fear may hold them back.
Overthinking leads to uncertainty and hesitancy. The child keeps on contemplating, How he will do, and Will he be able to deliver his speech or What if something happens.
These what-if questions make the children self-doubt themselves and the fear of public speaking starts crawling in. This constant doubt also interferes with the ability to perform and the person ends up making an error.
4. Lack of success in the past
Past traumas or failures often come to haunt you in the present. If the child has faced such a situation in the past, he would refrain from being in the same situation again.
It is like a defence mechanism, a barrier that the child creates to escape reliving that same moment of his past.
Like I mentioned above, children are hungry for approval. They also want positive feedback, which creates a fear of what people will think when they go up in front of an audience.
This may undermine their self-esteem and make them not want to face an audience and take an easy way out.
You can work on this fear of what people will think by evaluating your speech. Follow these steps to know more: “6 Ways You Can Evaluate Your Presentation”
How do children manage the fear of public speaking?
The fear of public speaking must not stop you from achieving your aspirations. Public speaking is used in all walks of life and fearing it may only make you lose out on great opportunities.
I, myself have experienced this fear. I speak too fast and use a lot of ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ when I get nervous. I also tend to avoid eye contact to not be intimidated by the audience. But, there are numerous ways in which you can take control of your fear.
Public speaking is a gradual process and cannot be taught in the course of a night. Practice is the key to adaptability. The more you practice the more thorough you are with your material. Some methods to rehearse are:
- Jot down your speech
- Record the rehearsal
- Practice in front of a mirror
- Rehearse the speech out loud
- Focus on body language and inflexion
Follow these 13 tips to rehearse your presentation and learn the various ways you can rehearse if one single method doesn’t work for you.
Imagine this, you have to give a speech and it’s your turn next. You are so nervous that you are shaking and sweating. What is it that you would do in such a situation?
Studies suggest that taking deep breaths can calm your nerves and help you let out the tension from your body. Your emotional response is linked with your breathing. So, the quickest action to control your fear is breathing.
Breathing is a type of meditation. Even 5-10 minutes of meditation helps in public speaking 90% of the time.
Meditation helps to control stage fright. Add meditation as a daily routine in your child’s schedule. It is useful in regulating the fear of public speaking and helps in the child’s personal development.
3. Don’t overthink
Focus on the thought of performing rather than the ‘what ifs’. Overthinking will only lead to anxiety and doubt. Direct your attention to what you can present to the audience and being positive will lead you away from unreasonable situations of what can go wrong.
How to not overthink? This is what you can do. Instead of sitting idle, use that time to go through your speech or practice. Watch a video tutorial or rather read about your topic to gain multiple insights.
Talk to a friend or surround yourself with people before your speech. You will feel light, distracted and stress-free.
4. Normalize rejection
Rejection is a common fear that all humans experience. Be it the genius Albert Einstein, J.K Rowling who wrote the renowned Harry Potter series or Jennifer Aniston the much-loved actress, all of them have faced rejection.
But did they just stop doing what they wanted? No, they accepted rejection and managed to do well in their life. Even the greatest public speakers have experienced rejection.
The fear of being rejected by the audience often leads the speaker astray. So, teach children that getting rejected is not the end, teach them to deal with rejection. Let them see it as a part of their learning experience.
Accepting rejection will only make the child ready to face future failures. There will be many more opportunities ahead and that’s how they will learn. I read somewhere that, “The most powerful motivation is rejection.”
Practical learning has a higher impact than theoretical learning. So, making your child familiar with speeches won’t work, you will have to make them perform to test how well they can give a speech in front of an audience.
For that make your child perform in front of your family or friends circle. Now that they have gained some confidence you can make them participate in school activities or speech programs.
Once again, I reiterate that this is a slow and gradual process so don’t rush and try to do everything in one day. Children may take time to manage this fear because some children may take less time and some more.
Public speaking courses for kids
There are thousands of courses online on the internet. These courses work as an additional practice to the already learning process at home and school.
Different types of courses are available according to the age of the child. One can choose a course suitable to their convenience and the age group of the child.
To know more about these courses you can read our article “Top 23 Public Speaking Udemy Courses Review: The Best Fit for You” where there is a review of public speaking courses for kids and students.