speaking skills in kids

Ways to Develop and Improve Public Speaking Skills in Kids

The fear of public speaking (glossophobia) has been identified as one of the most common fears along with the fear of death, spiders, or height. As per some estimates, about 75% of the population suffers from this fear. The National Institute of Mental Health estimated glossophobia affects more than 40% of Indians. The underlying reason is anxiety because of the fear of being ridiculed or negatively judged by others. This fear manifests itself in individuals avoiding speaking in front of a crowd, speaking up in meetings, or even not participating in informal social gatherings. The fear of public speaking can prove to be a big hindrance to one’s growth and success. Whether it was Martin Luther King Jr, Swami Vivekananda, or our current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they all possessed the great art of influencing the masses purely by their words. Most great leaders in our history were also great public speakers. The ability to speak well in front of an audience is a key trait of successful leaders.

Let’s look at some ways to develop and improve public speaking skills for students right from an early stage.

Ways to develop and improve public speaking skills

Build a psychologically safe environment for speaking

The fear of public speaking mostly originates from childhood when children are chided for speaking up in front of their elders. These initial perceptions take root in their psyche and they entirely stop speaking up. Let the children speak, even if they are wrong. Do not judge them or ridicule them for saying something silly or saying something wrong. Even schools have a huge role to play here. Teachers must create an environment that lets students speak freely without fearing judgement or ridicule. Do not correct them, or critique them, especially not in front of others. Find constructive ways of helping them improve. These initial days could be very critical in deciding whether the child develops a love or fear of public speaking.

Create opportunities to speak

There is no better way to practise public speaking than public speaking. Create more opportunities for students to speak. These could be in the form of activities such as debates, presentations, discussions, class participation, storytelling, etc. Even participating in events such as singing competitions, dance competitions, and theatre can develop the confidence in students to face a crowd and perform. Children must be encouraged to participate and take these opportunities to speak. Participation must be given more importance than competition. Losing a debate competition because the child forgot her speech could be a reason for the student to develop a fear of public speaking. To start in a non-competitive environment, children can be asked to speak voluntarily on a topic of their preference. Even sharing how their day went while having dinner with the family could be an efficient practice for public speaking.

Storytelling

Storytelling can be an engaging way to help children improve their public speaking skills right from a young age. Children can be asked to read a story and then narrate it in their own words to the family. Help them bring out the imagery, and the emotions by using dramatic effects through their body language, and verbal pitch, volume, and tonality. Dramatizing a story in front of their family members can open up their vocal cords and enable their expressive emotions. This will also make public speaking seem more fun than something to be afraid of. These simple activities in the psychologically safe environment of their homes can give children confidence in their ability to speak. Taking pride in their ability to express themselves will go a long way in building their confidence to speak in front of a crowd.

Use body language

One of the essential elements of effective public speaking and storytelling is body language. As per experts, 70% of our communication happens through non-verbal elements. Through our gestures, how we stand, how we walk, our posture, our facial expressions, etc. The words that come out of your mouth are a paltry 30% of the entire act of public speaking. Students must learn how to use their body language effectively while speaking. Students must be mindful of their nervous movements such as pacing repetitively, repetitive movements, using too many fillers, not maintaining eye contact with the audience, etc. Students must identify such clues and then consciously try to avoid them through repetitive practice.

Avoid memorising

Most public speaking disasters happen when the speaker forgets the speech. Speaking by memorising is an invitation to a disaster waiting to happen. The audience can also gauge very quickly that you have just memorised the whole speech. They also quickly lose interest. Try creating an outline or a structure for your speech. A few bullet points that form the jist of what you are going to say. Keep only those few bullet points handy with you while you are speaking and just speak from your heart. The truly great public speakers are those who spoke from their hearts, not from a written piece of document. This can be achieved when you truly immerse yourself in the topic and truly believe in what you are saying.

Prepare for success

Failures or setbacks in the initial stages can kick in the fear in the minds of the students. It is natural to be nervous while speaking in front of a crowd. Students must accept this and learn how to speak despite being nervous. To achieve this, students must be well-prepared for success. Whenever they take an opportunity to speak, make sure they prepare very well so that they have a high chance to succeed. Listening to good orators could be one way to help them learn public speaking skills. Observing good speakers, such as prominent news anchors, listening to speeches of popular leaders, and listening to podcasts of good speakers, are all such activities that can help give them ideas to improve their public speaking skills. Techniques such as speaking in front of a mirror, recording themselves while speaking, or speaking in front of a trusted friend and asking the friend to give constructive feedback could be ways in which students can prepare for success.

Also Read: How Parent Engagement Leads to Student Success

Students, teachers, schools, and parents, all have a critical role to play in helping students develop their public speaking skills. At EuroSchool we attach high importance to enhancing the public speaking skills of our students. This is achieved through both in-class and extra-curricular activities.

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