Seven Public Speaking Tips for Kids
19 May 2022
Public speaking can feel scary.
It has been estimated that up to 75% of all people have some level of anxiety around presenting to audiences, with plenty of people listing public speaking as their top fear. This is particularly true for those of us who feel we were born without innate public speaking skills.
But things don’t have to be this way. We’ve compiled a few tips and strategies for public speaking best practices that can really help with those nerves, and help you put together a great presentation for your next speech contest.
Check out the below to learn more key points for writing a speech for kids!
Tip #1 – Pick your passion
People often get to choose what they talk about in a speech, even if it means reframing a topic to fit what they want it to be. If you choose to speak about something you really care about – whether it be video games, climate change or unicorns – you’re much more likely to actually want to talk about it.
Not only will this help the process feel less daunting, but the added enthusiasm will likely improve your speaking manner – we all get more animated when we’re feeling passionate.
Tip #2 – Know your audience
Public speaking, at its core, is just a strange type of conversation between a speaker and their audience. Who will be there, and what do they expect from you? Are you speaking to your peers or a larger group? Is it a formal presentation, or would conversational words go down better?
If you know your audience – who is likely to be in it (whether it be all the teachers and students at your school or just your dear parents) or at least the type of person who is likely to be present – this will reduce any surprise you feel when you get onto stage, and likely help reduce your stress.
As an added benefit, knowing how to grab your audience’s attention will also help you prepare a speech better tailored to the circumstances, helping persuade them of your point of view!
Tip #3 – Practice makes perfect
Boring, we know.
But practice is what makes a good speech great. When we prepare a speech, we usually spend most of the time thinking about the actual words we’re going to say – but this often isn’t what audiences are really interested in. They actually pay much more attention to the way that we present ourselves, such as our tone of voice and body language – something we can only develop if we practice beforehand, and something that is often missed when teaching presentation skills to kids.
You also don’t need to complete your entire speech first – practice can be iterative, where you practice some elements of your speech to get a better feel of how they flow before moving on to your next point.
Besides, practice helps us feel more familiar with the content, helping reduce the nerves when we actually get up onto the stage – keep this in mind when you’re helping your child write their next speech!
Tip #4 – Visualise the room
Anxiety is the fearful apprehension about something we believe will come to pass – the body’s natural response when we stress about the future.
One of the best ways to overcome anxiety, particularly around public speaking, is to really think about what the future will likely hold – we’ve all seen dozens (if not hundreds) of speeches, and likely given a fair few ourselves.
Most (if not all) of these presentations tend to go pretty well. The speaker gets up, gives their two cents, and then sits down to some level of applause, sometimes rapturous but often just supportive. This is the most likely scenario we all face when we get up to present.
But what if I mess it up, and everyone laughs at me?
In over ten years of public speaking coaching, our Managing Director (Mark) has never actually seen this happen. Audiences know what it feels like to stand up and present, and feel empathy toward a speaker who isn’t doing their best. Rather than laugh at the speaker, most people actually want to run up, give them a hug and remind them everything is alright (and we’ve actually seen smaller children literally do this in our classes).
Audiences are almost always on the speaker’s side, and visualising this – what is likely to happen, rather than what we fear might – can really help ease the nerves in the lead-up to a big speech.
Make sure to keep this in mind when you’re next assisting with the preparation of your child’s speech!
Tip #5 – Redirect your Stress
Unfortunately, whilst we can limit our anxiety around public speaking, it often never truly goes away. Whilst many might consider this a disadvantage, it really isn’t.
A little bit of stress can actually be a good thing. It is a great motivator, helps us focus, and gives us an enthusiasm we might not otherwise possess – all of which can lead to a much more engaging speech. Whilst too much adrenaline can be bad for our health, a little bit here and there can really help us succeed.
All of this is great for public speaking. Redirecting our nervous energy into our speech can motivate us to actually get up and speak (this is a ‘fight’ rather than a ‘flight’ response), help us keep on point, and assist us in giving a more passionate presentation.
Tip #6 – Use your breath
If meditation has taught us anything, it’s that nothing calms the nerves like a few deep breaths.
Make sure you breathe calmly while you’re waiting to give your speech, especially if you feel any level of panic coming on. Breathing helps calm the nervous system, and in many circumstances, can actually postpone panic until you’re back in your seat.
But don’t let the good breathing stop there. When you’re up on stage, about to start, it’s a good idea to take one deep breath before you start speaking – this will help you focus, and give you the strong start that you need (you can also learn more tips for starting a speech here). Then continue taking deep breaths as you go through, particularly if the nerves aren’t going away – this can help keep the anxiety at bay.
In many ways, our breath is the best tool in our arsenal to help keep us calm, and is something with can use to help with our presentation skills from a young age.
Tip #7 – Take on feedback
Our last tip is to listen carefully to any feedback you receive, and make sure you put it into practice when you next present. Feedback, and in particular constructive criticism, outlines our mistakes, and gives us avenues we can take to overcome them in the future.
This is how we learn, and feel more comfortable when we next get up to present.
How can we help?
Whilst schools teach public speaking in some instances, we’ve been coaching public speaking and debating for almost a decade.
We know how to put all of these public speaking techniques (as well as many others) into practice to help boost your child’s confidence.
Learning the dos and don’ts of public speaking from an early age can help teach kids communication skills and leadership skills that they will take with them through life.
Have a look at our courses to find out more about how our holiday and weekly term programs might benefit your child.