Public speaking tips

Kids need to develop their skills for speaking in front of others long before their 21st birthday.

At a glance

  • Public speaking helps kids to develop confidence and build up their self-esteem.
  • Create opportunities for your child to present speeches to the family.
  • Show them how to use palm cards.
  • Good speakers make eye contact with the audience.
  • Help them develop a good pace and correct volume for the room.
  • Spend time listening to your child's speeches.

Merrilyn Jenkins, principal of Penshurst West Public School, says confidence in public speaking is a valuable tool for children to have.

"A clear confident speaking voice is an essential life skill that fosters self-esteem and personal confidence," she says.

"Children need lots of opportunities to prepare and present speeches as well as to listen to and watch others speak."

If your tips for keeping nerves at bay during public speaking are limited to imagining your audience in their underwear, Merrilyn has some sound advice to help your child prepare for their big moment in the spotlight.

A clear confident speaking voice is an essential life skill that fosters self-esteem and personal confidence.

Merrilyn Jenkins – Penshurst West Public School.

Public speaking tips

When your child can choose their own topic, encourage them to pick topics that are of personal interest.

It's OK for younger kids to give a recount of a holiday or special event, but as they get older help them develop opinions. For example, a speech on snakes may not be just facts and figures but could include comment about their importance to the environment or why people are afraid of them.

Help your child develop interesting beginnings and endings to their speeches, but always in a way that is meaningful to them.

Guide them to use a variety of information sources including family discussions, the library or the internet.

Use palm cards. Cut pieces of paper small enough to fit into the palm of one hand. Young kids may have picture clues to help them remember each part of their speech. Older kids should plan their speech out on sheets of paper first, then pick out the main points and write keywords for those points on the cards.

The idea is not to read sentences but to use the cards just to jog their memory. For example: "First fleet. 1788. Mainly convicts - England. Industrial revolution, overcrowding gaols," might be an introductory card for a speech on Convicts in Australia.

Even professional speakers rely on lots of preparation and practise to give smooth-flowing speeches.

Suggest to your child to practise their speech in front of a mirror or video so they can watch it and evaluate their own efforts.

While practising for a speech, remind your child to:

  • say the ends of words clearly
  • speak loudly enough for the people at the back of the room to hear
  • vary their pitch and pace when it makes sense to do so
  • look at the audience.

Spend time listening to your child's speech. Try to avoid doing other things at the same time because they need to practise looking at faces when they talk. Give feedback on how they present and time them with a stopwatch so they can pace their speech to meet the time they have been given.

Finally, avoid putting too much pressure on a child to perform.

"They need to be encouraged to participate at their own level and build their skills as they gain more experience," Merrilyn says.

"A relaxed, well-prepared speaker will exude confidence and therefore will always be a winner."


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