Remember when you had to give a presentation in school? How did you react? Did you feel ill? Sweat? Things have not changed. (Some) kids and teens still suffer from the great fear of speaking in public.

In mid-January I finished co-facilitating (with Melinda Atkinson of Motivational Moments) a leadership program for a local high school. The students were in grade 7. I wasn’t scared, I swear! We knew the teacher was on board for the program therefore we already had one hurdle crossed.

We had six sessions to cover weeks of material. It had to be concise. It had to be interactive. Over the course of the 6 sessions, each student needed to give a 2-3 minute mini speech about themselves or a topic of their choice. It did not take long to weed out those who would thrive and those who wanted to die!

Each week, a lesson was shared allowing the students to add a layer to their speaking skills repertoire. Our role was to compliment the existing curriculum. We gave the students life skills they can carry with them through their schooling and work life. Week one through three gave the students a base to work with:

Week 1 – Choosing a speech topic

If a topic is not handed down to the students in class, it can be recommended to look within for speech topics:

  • What do you already know?
  • What can you share about your life?
  • Martin Presse’s five F’s: firsts, fears, frustrations, failures & flaws

Week 2 – Organizing your speech

Encourage students to brainstorm their ideas and determine what their call to action is for their audience. What do they want the audience to walk away learning or doing? Once the latter is determined they can move onto what they will include in the body and how they will open the speech. It looks something like this:

  • Conclusion: what is the call to action?
  • Body: include 3-5 main points supported by stories or data leading to the call to action
  • Introduction: this is the opportunity to capture the audience’s attention. Use facts, a quote or a generalization to create intrigue.

Another way of looking at organizing your speech at a basic level (a great mentor shared this with me a long time ago!):

  • Introduction: tell the audience what you are going to TALK about.
  • Body: TALK about it.
  • Conclusion: Tell the audience what you TALKED about.

Week 3 – Body language & vocal variety

Our bodies react the strongest to the nervousness we feel when are presenting. Your voice may quiver and a high pitch may sneak out before you know it. Here are some of the recommendations the students shared with their fellow classmates during the evaluation period:

  • Use the floor. Change areas when speaking about different topics.
  • Smile and make eye contact. They help create a bond with the audience.
  • Be sure to avoid any mannerisms which can distract the audience (fixing your glasses, playing with your hair, clicking your fingers.)

Stay tuned for week four through six. As each week passed, even those who struggled to embrace this (sometimes) scary art form, bloomed just a little bit.

Speaking…it’s within who we are. It is our essence. It is our core. It changes lives.

Each one of them changed a little bit.

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