Public Speaking for Children – A message for teachers and parents

Young children sitting in classroom

What do you think of public speaking for children?

The benefits of learning to speak confidently in public at the youngest possible age can pay huge dividends. Lessons in public speaking for children can help young people:

– Boost their personal confidence and self-esteem

– Value their voice and express themselves openly, with greater ease

– Influence and persuade others more effectively

– Think critically and creatively

– Make new social connections

– Significantly enhance personal relationships

– Be more comfortable with other  people

– Stand up to bullies – they are in the workplace too!

Over the longer term, public speaking for children can help them to inspire people and even change the world.

The world really does open up to us when we speak with confidence

I attend a lot of conferences and seminars and each time I do I’m amazed when it comes to the Q&A at the end just how few questions there always are. It’s often, always the same people asking the questions.

Many people really don’t like speaking in public, even if it’s to ask a burning question. Interestingly though, during the coffee break there are often many questions flying around the room.

It’s not a new phenomenon. It hasn’t changed in decades and is unlikely to unless we introduce public speaking for children within our schools.

Do you remember your own time at school. The teacher asked a question and very few of us put our hands up to answer it.

Was it really the case that so many students didn’t know the answer?

Of course not, many of us did.

Many of us were scared to raise our hands.

When we realized we actually did know the answer we kicked ourselves all the way home.

Historically the written word has been the primary currency of education in schools. Throughout the ages students have been taught to read, remember and repeat. The demonstration of learning has mostly been done through the written word. In the past, in many cases, success at school and at work has mostly required fluency with the written word.

Whilst that still is and will always remain vitally important, we all know it isn’t enough. Our inablity to speak with confidence is not helpful in such a disconnected world.

The world has changed

Today, students and employees are also judged on how well they communicate and present themselves at work and school. Many struggle to express themselves clearly and confidently.

It doesn’t have to be that way

Life is a 24 hour, 365 day a year conversation. When we are not talking to colleagues or customers, we are speaking with our families and  friends. When we are not speaking directly with someone else the dialogue still continues. It’s an internal one with ourselves. Even when we are asleep we are still talking, we just so happen to call it something else; dreaming.

Equipping children with the confidence and skill to speak in public they can grow to do some incredible things. They can inspire, change and unite people in a common cause. At the very least, they succeed in connecting with others more effectively.

We need to teach them to manage their nerves and to help them to speak with passion, clarity and impact.

To succeed in the workplace today we are increasingly called on to communicate with confidence. We all need to articulate information in a clear and coherent way.

Children need to be heard as well as seen,  find a way to help them

Encouraging our schools to teach our children how to find their voice and speak in public is critical but on it’s own is not enough. If you are a parent please don’t just wait for that to happen. You have a major role to play too. The mission starts with you. Why not take the opportunity to help your child to and value their voice. You can do this by:

– Making the very idea of public speaking fun. Remove the pressure so many adults feel themselves at the very thought of speaking in public.  When discussing the topic with your child try not to mention the term, public speaking. Reframe it to something that may be more friendly, helpful and even exciting to them.

Perhaps, speaking with confidence. Self-expression or being heard. How to stand out. Sharing your voice, etc.

– Spend some time getting them to read stories and poems to you. Encourage them to make up their own.  Gradually get them to share some of their stories and poems openly to close relatives and friends. Look for people who you know will encourage and support them too. There are some really helpful articles online.  Although focused primarily on singing, offer some fabulous advice to help children develop their voices.

– Set them a fun but personal challenge. It could be, speaking standing up in front of just you talking in as much detail as they can about something important to them. They may prefer to speak about something they really care about or simply like. It could be a hobby, interest, sport, book, film or even food. Ask you child to just be themselves and speak openly and honestly about it.

– Encourage and help them to stretch their voice by reading pages from their favourite book. Start by reading in a happy and excited voice. Shift to a loud voice, quiet voice and even a funny voice.

– Show them how to play with the pace of their voice. Ask them to speak faster, slower and perhaps pause for a moment after each sentence.

Teach them how to breathe properly before they speak

– Find strange objects around the house. Ask them to make up stories about what they think it is and what it’s used for.

– Ask for their permission to capture them speaking by video on your phone, or tablet. Assure them that no one else will see it. and that you will delete it if  they want you to. Once you’ve recorded them, sit with your child and play the video back. Ask them to focus exclusively on looking for three things they likes about the way they speak. Many people  find that a challenge. Don’t give up though, encourage them to find something, even if it’s one or two things. Then share everything you like about the way they speak. Be honest with them but only be positive by focusing on the things you genuinely like. At this stage don’t mention any problems, opportunities or issues.

– Teach your child the power of making eye contact. Have the two of you discuss something your child is interested in, encouraging both of you to make as much eye contact as possible. Show them the impact of what happens when you don’t make eye contact when you are speaking. Break eye contact with your child and ask them how it feels and then switch around, get them to do that to you.

– You can take eye contact even further. Place a few chairs around them with post it notes on the top of each one, with eyes drawn on them. Ask your child to talk about something they likes while making sure they make eye contact with each of the post it’s.  Ask them to imagine having a conversation with the post it notes and to see them as their friends.

Help them if they feel anxious

– If your child feels nervous or anxious get them to choose a superhero. They may already have one that they like. If not ask them to select somebody they could like or relate to. Ask them to stand, breath, think like and look like their superhero. As they do this, ask them to read a few paragraphs from their favourite book.

– Give them interesting and fun topics to prepare a 3 minute speech on. Help them to practice speaking openly and giving them feedback. Topics could include things like:

If they were the head of their school what 3 things would they change immediately and why.

If they could do anything in the world where there were no obstacles at all, what would they do.

– Find a strange object in the house that your child won’t be familiar with. Ask them to imagine that he/she is a world famous archaeologist  who has just returned from a major dig. Encourage them to imagine that they have found this strange item that no one has ever seen before. Ask them to use their imagination and create a use for it and then stand and share their amazing find. (this one may be more of a challenge but the idea is to make it fun and interesting as well as a challenge). Give your child lots of good feedback every time he/she speaks.

– Do some fun vocal exercises with them. There are plenty on YouTube you can have some fun with.

– Ask them to write down everything that worries them or makes them anxious or fearful in any way about the idea of speaking in groups. Talk through their thoughts and concerns with them.

Important note

Many adults enter the workplace highly skilled at ‘waiting to speak’; in other words, their listening skills are very poor. Teach your child how to actively listen too. Learning how to speak with confidence and impact won’t be of any use to them at all unless they can listen equally well.

When come home from school take a few minutes each day to ask your child about their day at school. Encourage them to share as much as they can and would like to.

Spend as much time with them as you can helping them to find, value and develop their voice.

Here’s one of my favourite YouTube videos you can have some real fun with:

 “ Teaching in the independent sector for 10 years has enabled me to see how valuable public speaking is.  Being responsible for educating boys from 4 years to 13 years means that we have a duty not only to educate but to help them grow into young men.  We encourage them to be confident to express their knowledge and opinions through spoken language.  Public Speaking gives them the opportunity to speak out and express themselves eloquently, which many children and adults find difficult to do today.  For me, it is a vital part of growing up and a most valuable skill to have.”

Emma Edwards

Director of Studies & Head of Learning Support

Cumnor House

If you need help with your public speaking skills:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

Image: Courtesy of

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