Public speaking is so practical. Maybe some adults don’t ever have to speak to groups, but in my life, I have had countless opportunities to teach and speak.
I remember when I was a teen, my mother joined a Toastmaster’s group where she gave and listened to speeches. She came home so excited that it rubbed off on me. I’ve never been terrified by public speaking. Yes, I get nervous, but experience breeds confidence. That’s exactly why you need to find chances for your child to practice speaking in a group.
Speech Writing and Delivery
Speech writing follows along closely with essay writing. You need an introduction that hooks the audience, a body full of specific details, and a conclusion that wraps it all up. As long as your child can write an essay, he can easily write a speech. It is always easier to make language more informal, as we do when speaking, than to make it more formal, as we do in writing.
I have the Scholastic book Oral Presentations Made Easy. It’s extremely basic, so much so that I can’t honestly recommend it. Instead, I hunted up some freebies:
It seems that most public speaking materials focus inordinately on the speech preparation rather than the delivery. Since speech writing is so similar to essay writing, I don’t understand why the materials focus so much on the content of the speech. The unique part of public speaking is the delivery: eye contact, appropriate gestures, intonation, speed, how to use notes, and so on. Maybe those things are mainly learned through practice. Or possibly giving a classroom of 25-35 students enough chances to practice is so difficult that curriculum writers focus on the more manageable task of speech writing than on delivery.
Whatever the reason, we need to give our children opportunities to practice public speaking and to watch public speakers so they can learn the keys to delivery. When you listen to speakers, take the time to analyze their delivery style. What exactlymade it interesting or boring? Identifying specific dos and don’ts seen in others can help your child with his own public speaking.
Between the writing and the publishing of this post, Sprite and I listened to a very distracting speaker. His style was so exaggerated that we stole looks of amazement at each other several times during his talk. Later we analyzed his delivery problems. He was too loud, moved around far too much, jutted his head in and out like a bird, emphasized words in strange ways, and exaggerated his facial expressions. She agreed that his message was good.
Unfortunately, his delivery kept both of us from focusing on what he was saying. Honestly I couldn’t wait for him to finish. I felt anxious simply watching his behavior. But what a fantastic learning opportunity for a lesson on public speaking!
Essential Reminder: Let your child select a topic she is passionate about.
I am such a mean mom. I insisted that Sprite participate in both the speech and demonstration contests at our local 4H club even though she didn’t want to. She sulked and complained every time it came up, but I held fast. Public speaking is important, and the 4H contest is a perfect place to practice. I told her it was for school and not for fun and that she would be required to participate each and every year.
Once we started brainstorming topics, though, she suddenly lit on an idea that she is passionate about sharing — tools you need for advanced drawing. The words flowed out in quick succession as she talked about pencil types, smudgers, different kinds of paper and pads, and so on. She ran to her room to furiously type out a rough outline. She brought the paper to me, glowing with excitement. It was filled with details and humor. I know this will turn out to be an excellent speech and best of all, she knows it too.
Moral of the story is to choose something, anything, that your child truly cares about. Her passion makes the speech writing and speech delivery infinitely easier.
Public speaking can’t really be done alone, at home. To get the maximum benefit, you need to place your child in front of others — non-family others. Starting at home with relatives is a good way to ease into speaking, but eventually you need to push your child to deliver a speech in front of a crowd of people.
Two obvious options are
- 4H clubs and
- coop classes.