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Public Speaking Tips for Kids (and Adults)

Whether your child strives to become an artist, a doctor, a president, or even an athlete, being able to communicate effectively with others is critical to their future success. Summer is the perfect time for students to work on their public speaking skills and here are our suggestions to get your student ready.

Encourage them to exercise

Exercise their speaking skills, of course. Public speaking requires the use of our voice, face, and body. Simple exercises such as placing a pencil between their teeth and reciting easy to remember words, can help clear up enunciation. It can even be something as simple as saying the alphabet. The pencil creates a necessary space between the teeth that forces the lips and tongue to move up and over to get the sound out. This is very helpful for children that mumble and especially for kids with any type of mouth appliance like expanders or braces. It might get a little drooly at the beginning, but as they strengthen their facial muscles, it should subside.

Adding in eyebrow pushups (bringing the eyebrows up and down with each letter or word) to the pencil exercise can assist in engaging important facial muscles. They can also perform this exercise while doing simple tasks like brushing their teeth.

Tongue twisters are also an excellent way to give a mouth a work out. The areas we trip up on tend to show us weaknesses in the muscles necessary for speaking. Look up a variety of tongue twisters (or “Red leather, yellow leather,” “You know you need unique New York,” “Toy boat.”) and have your student repeat the phrases as quickly as possible to gauge any potential trouble spots. Then have them say it very slowly, focusing on moving their mouth, teeth, and tongue in order to produce the sound of each letter in each word as clearly as possible. Then have them speed up.

Practicing these types of exercises daily has the potential to provide amazing improvement in your student’s speaking skills. The best part is that they can be done anywhere!

Give them space to speak up

The real world provides several perfect scenarios to allow your student to practice their public speaking skills so let them take a crack at it without interjecting your two cents. Encourage them to order for themselves, ask for more information, or break the ice when meeting new people. The best way to get ahead of possible stage fright is to be prepared. Have your child review the menu online before arriving at a restaurant and practice ordering on the way. Advise your student to jot down questions or concerns they might have before meeting with a doctor or teacher. Arm your student with questions and conversation starters for those awkward social situations.

Creating a phone call scavenger hunt is a super effective activity for students to show off their skills. Give them a list of information you need for them to find such as calling a local pizza place to ask how many pizzas would be needed for a party with a set number of guests and how much it would cost. They can call local stores asking if they have a specific game console or computer and the cost. This can be done with a variety of places. Make sure to prompt them to thank the person for the information before hanging up.

Enrolling in programs like our Middle School Debate Camp or Shark Tank Camp, give students the chance to not only prepare to speak for different occasions, but to do so with the support of their peers. Students learn so much more from observing the triumphs and errors of their classmates.

Most importantly, be supportive and stay positive

The best way to support your child is to set a strong and confident example. So many parents “brag” about how they can’t talk in front of people or that public speaking makes them panic. Remember, whether you’re a seasoned pro or completely ridden with stage fright, your most important audience is looking to you to learn their own limitations. Fake it til you make it if you have to, discuss overcoming your own nerves, and let them know that public speaking isn’t about being perfect; it’s about being brave enough to try.

So many parents have the best of intentions when providing corrections or pushing kids out of their comfort zones before they are ready. However, sometimes those actions end up having the opposite desired effect. Try to avoid commenting about your child about being quiet or shy in front of others, or even in private for that matter. We become what we are told, so feed your child positive encouragement- “You can do brave things.” “ You are interesting.” “ You have so many important things to say.” “How can I help you feel comfortable/ prepared to talk to other people?”

The key to feeling comfortable with public speaking is to practice and be prepared. With our recommendations, your student will feel strong, confident, supported, and prepared to communicate in any situation.

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