It was 11 years ago that I joined the Toastmasters Club in Singapore. I was comfortable chatting with friends and even giving presentations for projects in school. Little did I know that when I had to give a speech to strangers, I froze. I startled and my heart thumped so hard that I thought I would die of a heart attack.
Many adults fear public speaking and even after delivering the speech, we are our worst critic. This fear could definitely be overcome with practice and skills. How I wished I had learnt the skills of public speaking when I was young.
Hence, I started giving workshops on public speaking and presentation skills targetting at children. Children learn best when they have FUN! It’s not about the grammar, neither is it about the vocabulary. It’s about communication and whether the other party or parties understand you, whether they caught your message, and whether they will act upon your call.
My first workshop, “Electrify or Electrocute Your Audience”, was well received by the children. It was loaded with activities that build their confidence and the children had a whale of good time. I discovered that our children learn in schools how to handle oral examinations and very often, there were templates for them to follow. When it comes to extemporaneous speeches, they were lost. For example, when I gave them a “blue” giraffe and asked them to give a speech about that, the children all started describing the giraffe. “This is a blue giraffe. It has spots on its body…” I’m not saying that this is bad, but if we want to interest our audience, we have to be more creative, we have to be able to “spin” tales and draw our audience in with our speeches.
Recently, I ran a workshop on public speaking and storytelling in a Primary School. The final session is a speech contest and all these students were so excited when I arrived. They showed me their scripts and asked if they could refer to their notes when they deliver their speeches. Their speeches were well written but when it comes to their delivery, they need more encouragement and practice. It’s heartwarming to see their excited faces, their eagerness to deliver their speeches, and their courage to overcome their nervousness.
My personal conviction is that our children do not need lessons on how to speak. They do not need templates on good speeches. They need our encouragement. They need coaching. They need to build their confidence, knowing that they can deliver speeches that are sincere, speeches that can impact others, and speeches that make a difference.
Adults, parents, teachers, coaches, can play key roles to identify the strengths of our children, suggest ways to make their speeches more impactful, and help launch them on this wonderful journey of public speaking.
Update 9 May 2013
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