Here’s the thing about public speaking: it’s one of the few things in life where you can be 13 years old or you can be 5 years old, and you can actually be better than your parents or lots of other adults. This is not true with driving and other dangerous skills that are only available to adults. But public speaking is different.
We’ve all seen really boring public speakers in different settings, whether they are folks speaking in your community about various issues or two parents in front of the class.
As a matter of fact, these days we’re so used to listening to bad speeches that we pray to God that the next one is even a little bit better. We couldn’t ask for more and hope that, “This one will be better than the others we’ve heard so far.”
Public speaking for kids: the most important things to remember
Guess what? It doesn’t matter if you’re 5 years old or 55 years old: if you’re boring, you’re not communicating.
So, what are the best tips on public speaking for kids? You need to go into every single presentation with a specific goal in mind. Also, you’ve got to focus on the most important ideas that should be remembered.
Therefore, let’s dive in and see what are the other best tips on public speaking for kids.
Why is public speaking important for children?
If you can stand up and speak well in front of an audience, that is a great skill, and you can learn that at any age. Not only is public speaking a great skill you can use right now to help you get through school, but it can also help you with every other school project or even to ask your parents for an increase in your allowance.
The ability to speak in a way that people will listen to you and have a sense that you’re comfortable and relaxed is a good thing.
Therefore, learning how to speak in front of a large group will help you:
- Improve your message delivery skills and other communication skills
- Increase your self-awareness and self-esteem
- Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) and the stage fear
- Public speaking FAQs: Answers To the Top 22 Most Common Questions
#1 Set up your goals for the presentation
The first thing you’ve got to do before any presentation you give (whether it’s asking for allowance or giving a book report) is you’ve got to really figure out your goals. For example:
- If for an allowance, you want that additional amount of money every single week.
- If it’s a book report, your goals may be more general.
Some goals may be:
- You want people to know a lot of interesting things about this book
- You want the teacher to be impressed
- You want a good grade
Whatever it is, you need to go into every single presentation with a specific goal in mind.
So, think about your specific goals and write them down.
- Audience analysis: A comprehensive guide for the public speaker
- How to write a speech: 20 good and effective tips
#2 Make Sure Your Most Important Ideas Are Remembered
Once you have decided exactly what your topic and goals are, you need to really focus on what you think is going to motivate your audience to follow up on the goals to do what it is you want them to do.
Now, if it’s in the classroom, you may simply want the other students and the teacher to know that you know all the basic, fundamental, important things about your topic.
If you are asking your parents to go on a particular type of vacation (to Disneyland, for example) then you’ve got to ask yourself what are the specific reasons that are most likely to motivate your parents to take you to Disneyland.
So, you’ve got to focus on the most important ideas that should be remembered.
#3 You can’t just point out every single fact or every single piece of data.
There is no point in saying that Disneyland is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., 365 days a year. That’s a fact about Disneyland and it’s unlikely to motivate your parents to do what you want them to do.
Also, if you’re giving a book report about some famous person, you can’t look at all the facts of a person’s life because…who cares?
Why should anyone really care about that unless you explained it in the proper context? So, the biggest problem for most people is they just throw out so much stuff that, frankly, isn’t interesting.
Therefore, ask yourself:
- Is what I’m saying truly going to be interesting to the people in the room to whom I’m speaking?
- Is it really going to be interesting and important to them?
- Is it just going to seem really boring, and they’re going to think, “Oh, let me just ignore what this kid is saying and let me check my e-mail.”
So, much of being a good public speaker doesn’t have anything to do with how tall you are or whether your speaking voice is deep. Complete nonsense.
#4 Decide what is interesting and what isn’t
So much of being a good public speaker is about simply using judgment about what is interesting and what isn’t. And that’s the main reason you need to come up with a handful of messages that are going to make the case.
Focus on what’s really most important about the topic you are speaking about and, for a starter, come up with the top five ideas. Usually, there is no point in talking about more than five main points, and therefore this should do the trick for you.
#5 Show them what you care about
Anytime you’re presenting and you’re coming up with your messages, you’ve always have to ask:
- What is it I really care about?
- Why do I care about this?
Globally, audiences like when they’re seeing somebody speak who seems like they care about the topic and who seems passionate about the subject.
#6 Find out why this particular topic is more interesting than other stuff
Now, I understand you can’t be passionate and excited about everything your teacher gives out and there are lots of assignments that are just not the most exciting ones in the world.
Nevertheless, you’ve still got to find why this particular topic is more interesting than other stuff.
#7 You’ve got to talk about it with a little passion
If you want people to pay attention to you – if you want to get a good grade, and if you want to seem like you understand a subject – you’ve got to talk about it with a little passion. You’ve got to seem like you care.
Because here’s the thing: if you don’t care, no one else will, either, and everyone else will just be daydreaming and doodling.
If you want to give a great presentation, and if you want to build your skillset, you’re going to have a long lifetime of giving presentations. Why not learn how to get a little bit better every single time and learn how to make each one a little easier?
Therefore, always look at the messages that you’re coming up with and really figure out which ones you care about the most. You’re going to be a lot more interesting to listen to and that is half the battle.
#8 Make your points unforgettable
Here’s a magic phrase for any time you’re speaking, whether you’re giving a book report or a presentation of any sort: “For example….”
#9 Use the magic phrase “For example”
Human beings are trying to learn. They’re trying to listen to you and figure out what it is you’re talking about.
So, anytime you can give an example, you are better off. I’ve never heard anyone in the world say, “I hated the way that the last presenter gave so many interesting, relevant examples.”
And yet I often hear people say, “This speaker was really boring. That was a data dump. I didn’t learn anything. It was sort of vague and fuzzy.”
Therefore, any time you want to make a point, give a specific example.
For example, when I am telling people it’s important not to look nervous and uncomfortable, I don’t just then go on to the next point. Instead, I say, “For example, if you’re looking down the whole time, and you look like you’re guilty, then people are going to assume that you’re nervous and uncomfortable. They’re going to maybe feel sympathy for you but they’re not going to focus on you.”
So, think of examples for every one of the messages that you’ve written down and come up with examples for each one of your five main points.
#10 Use a cheat sheet and notes
In school, I would never ever suggest you cheat, because it’s not the right thing to do. Plus, if you get caught the penalties are severe.
But when you are giving a presentation, I do recommend that you have a cheat sheet. By that, I mean just a single sheet of paper.
Here are some tips for the cheat sheet:
- It has notes
- Notes are written in big bold letters
- Notes are not written with whole sentences
- Notes are not written down with whole paragraphs
- Write down any important number, any fact and any date that’s really important that you’re afraid you might forget
#11 Never read when you’re giving a presentation
Human beings can’t stand it when someone reads monotonously from the paper. It’s because when you read to them:
- Your voice goes flat/monotone
- There’s no eye contact
- Facial expressions are flat
- You are ignoring the audience
So, I recommend to never read when you’re giving a presentation.
- How to Outline a Presentation: A Complete Guide From a Pro
- How to Use Notes in a Speech: 14 valuable tips for a speaker
#12 Get your audience to understand you and to do what you want
Now, of course, there are exceptions. If you are quoting Ronald Reagan, or any other famous person, and you want to get it just right, then it’s fine to glance down and read.
If your teacher requires you to read, by all means, do so. But when it’s up to you, I want you to not read. It’s all about the audience and getting them to understand you and to do what you want.
For example, if you’re asking your parents for an increase in allowance…
- Are your parents hearing this?
- Are your parents understanding it?
- Are they persuaded?
- Are they going to do what you want?
#13 Put a spotlight on an idea
It’s never just about the words. The beauty of public speaking is that it puts a spotlight on an idea and it shows people you think that this is important. That’s why it’s really critical to focus on your audience and to get them to understand that you care about them understanding your ideas.
And that’s why reading is never a good idea. Instead, have notes and have a cheat sheet that is limited to a single sheet of paper.
But beyond that, you need to be looking at your audience when you’re speaking. If you do that, you’ll come across as much more comfortable, more believable and they’re much more likely to do whatever it is you want them to do. Or at least they understand the ideas you’re talking about.
#14 Practice your speech
Public speaking for kids and preparation for your speech is like any other adult presentation. Therefore, it’s time to practice your speech.
But: I need you to do it in a very specific way. I’m talking about video recording yourself.
#15 Rehearse in front of a video camera
So, when you practice your talk, don’t just state it out loud in front of a parent, or a friend or a classmate. Also, practice in front of a mirror. That really doesn’t do much good.
What you need to do is practice your speech on video. These days, it is easy to find a cell phone video or a webcam. If you’re looking for good cameras, or even for teleprompters for public speaking, then take a look at these cameras or teleprompters, here.
Remember: practicing in front of a video camera is the most important part of this whole process.
If you practice on the video to the point where you like what you see, you’re going to feel so much more confident.
It doesn’t matter if your speech is 2 minutes long or 20 minutes long: every time, practice your speech as if you were doing it for real. All you need to do is to be able to see and hear you once you’ve recorded yourself on video.
- Prepared speech: 10 effective tips on how to practice a speech
- How to be comfortable in front of a video camera? 14 great tips
#16 Write down everything you liked and disliked about your presentation
Next thing you need to do is to watch the video, and I need you to grade yourself and be a fair critic. Don’t just look at the negatives – look at the positives, too.
I want you to write down everything. Things like:
- How you came across?
- How you smile?
- How you looked comfortable?
- Whether you seemed interesting?
- Whether you were easy to understand?
- Whether your rate of speaking was good and not rushed?
- If you’re speaking so softly that it’s hard to understand
- If you’re fidgeting with your fingers the whole time and looked nervous.
- Did your tone of voice go up at the end of every sentence, making it sound like you were questioning/doubting yourself?
- Did you look scared?
Sometimes, it’s hard to judge ourselves, so you may want to ask a parent, classmate or someone else to do this with you, too.
It’s good to get independent feedback, but we’re not looking only for criticism, and we’re not looking only for praise. We really want to get an accurate sense of what’s working and what isn’t.
#17 Rehearse again
I hope that after finishing the first rehearsal, you have a decent-sized list of things you like and don’t like.
Now, if you have that list, you’re going to do this all again, but this time, I want you to do more of the things you liked when you presented. And I want you to look at the list of the things you don’t like and I want you to focus on just one of those things.
For example, maybe it was speaking too quickly. This time, focus on that and try to slow down. You should not try to fix 10 problems if there are 10 things you don’t like.
That’s not how you learned any other skill – you didn’t go to math class one day and instantly learn addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Instead, you learned one step at a time. Therefore, I want you to do the same thing with public speaking.
- Focus on just one thing
- Video record yourself one more time
- Analyze it again
- Make a detailed list of what you like (ideally, that list grows)
- Make a detailed list of what you don’t like (ideally, that list shrinks)
#18 Rehearse until you are satisfied
After your second rehearsal, chances are you made some mistakes, and maybe it’s not 100 percent but you made some improvement. Now, if you didn’t see improvement, typically that means one of two things.
- You tried to fix 5 or 10 things, and you didn’t focus on just 1 thing, therefore your mind scatters.
- You tried to focus on something that you just can’t change.
For example, if you’re 12 years old, and you want to sound like you have a deep, old man’s voice, you can’t really do that without sounding ridiculous.
You don’t need to do that. There’s nothing wrong with your voice right now. As long as people can understand you, and you don’t sound scared, chances are your voice is perfectly fine.
You have to sound like you, as long as it’s you sounding interested and relaxed and not scared, tense and nervous.
So, the next thing you need to do is to look again at the list of things you like and how you’re presenting and at the list of things you don’t like. And…I need you to practice again on video.
Review it again and figure out what you like what you don’t like. Now, here’s the key. And this is really the most important part of the preparation.
#19 Look at it and keep doing it until you like what you see.
Maybe that only takes 1 more time. Maybe it takes 10 times or 20 times, but if you really want to be well prepared for this presentation, you need to rehearse for as long as it takes.
If you want a great role model for your presentation, it needs to be you and that’s why you need to practice on video.
If you can give your presentation, record it on video and look at it and say, “Wow! That’s great!” then it is going to be much easier to go in front of people and talk well.
You just have to put enough time into it, and this will get easier as you get older and you do this regularly. As you gain more experience, you’ll get to the point where, typically, you really only need to practice once on video.
Most adults never do this because they’re too lazy. Now is your time to build new, strong habits that are going to last you a lifetime. So, keep practicing on video again and again until you like it. Once you’ve done this, you’re going to be ready to give the best possible presentation you can on this topic.
How do children overcome the fear of public speaking?
The way to eliminate the fear of public speaking is to come up with a process – something you can do every single time so that you’re not leaving anything up to chance, and you’re not wondering what to do.
Here are some proven techniques for overcoming stage fright.
Belly breathing is the best form of breathing, and it helps calm the nerves. Therefore, try to do several (4-5 times) very deep breaths with your belly to calm your nerves.
Here are some other good breathing techniques.
Sama Vritti technique
- Begin with a slow, steady inhale through your nose while silently counting to four.
- Pause briefly, then exhale through your nose for another count of four.
- Repeat until your heart rate slows and you feel calmer.
Abdominal breathing technique
- Place one hand on your chest and one on your abdomen.
- Breathe in deeply through the nose, making sure your abdomen inflates, not your chest.
- Exhale slowly.
- Repeat six to ten times every minute for approximately ten minutes.
- What is Stage Fright: Everything You Need to Know About it
- Stage fright: A Helpful Illustrated Guide
#20 Accept the fact that you’re going to be nervous
One of the things that makes people nervous standing up in front of the classroom or talking to family members and friends is this idea of, “Oh-oh, I don’t really know how I’m coming across. Maybe I look nervous; maybe I look scared; maybe I look uncomfortable.”
Guess what? You might actually look nervous, uncomfortable or scared, but if you don’t know how you’re coming across, then you just don’t know. So, chances are you might actually look awkward or uncomfortable.
Therefore, this is one of the most important points I need to make. Even seasoned performers and successful entrepreneurs get nervous before going in front of people.
#21 Acknowledge that the audience wouldn’t understand you’re nervous
Also, there’s no point worrying about whether your listeners notice your nervousness, trembling, etc. – they normally won’t. Even if they are aware that you’re slightly nervous, nobody takes it seriously.
You don’t need to excuse yourself for being nervous at the beginning of your presentation. Equally important, don’t start your speech by apologizing for being nervous.
#22 Proper preparation with proper practice
Preparing at home, ask yourself, “What do I want my listeners to think or do differently after I’ve finished my presentation?”
During preparation, think about who your listeners are and what their interests, needs, and expectations are. If you’re able to do a presentation that listeners can relate to, you’ve done great, offering something valuable to your audience.
#23 Remember that the audience is your greatest ally
Keep in mind that your listeners don’t mean you harm – they’ve come to learn something interesting. A common presumption is that the audience wants you to fail. The reality, however, is the opposite: the audience is your greatest ally because if your presentation fails, so will they.
#24 Remember that no presentation is perfect!
Well, at least not for the speaker. During my public speaking training, I often see how being asked by the presenter how it went right after the presentation, people answer “very poorly.“
As a presenter, you notice all the blips; you remember what you forgot to say, etc. If I ask the audience the same question, they usually say the opposite; e.g. What are you talking about? It went very well!
So, don’t focus on giving a perfect presentation. You’re already better than you think!
How can a child improve his/her public speaking skills?
In this section, I’ll briefly outline the main things to keep in mind when it comes to preparation and making a presentation. Here are some things I would like to point out.
#25 Know your audience and their background
Who are they? What do they want? What are their expectations? In other words, you need a detailed audience analysis. Some things to consider:
- Are there any experts among the audience?
- Do the listeners know the topic well?
- What is the attitude of the audience?
#26 Try to think through the entire presentation
Think about things like:
- What you can do to draw attention
- Arriving early and adjusting everything according to your needs
- What is your plan B if something goes wrong (for example you’re out of time)
- How to use a video projector or other gadgets if you need one
Feedback is the best thing to make you a better speaker. Also, this is something that helps you further improve your speech, even if you’re already quite happy with it. So, in order to become a better public speaker, you should always ask the audience (or friends who participated) for as much feedback as possible.
This way you can avoid mistakes you made this time, and your next listeners will become part of an even better experience.
Final thoughts on public speaking for kids
Remember that most people aren’t very good at public speaking.
If you’ve actually followed the tips we’ve talked about in this post, you’re going to be way ahead of most of your friends, your peers, and your colleagues. It’s because you’re going to know the secret of how to come across confident, comfortable and relaxed.
Therefore, you’re not going to be nervous when you’re giving presentations, and you’re going to know that you’re doing your very best. But more importantly, if you actually follow this on a regular basis, this is a skill that’s going to help you throughout your whole life, because you’re going to be giving a lot of presentations.