The thought of public speaking can scare even the most confident person. Captivating an audience is a skill that takes many hours of practise, as does the ability to speak confidently and calmly to small or large groups of people.
People are not born with these skills – they must be learned and practised. School students learn these skills through debating and in discussion with their teachers. This develops children’s oracy – skills in using spoken language.
Research is beginning to show that children who are taught oracy or public speaking perform better in maths, science and reasoning tests. It is also incredibly important for building children’s confidence so that they contribute in class, articulate their thoughts, and add value to group discussions. Learning to speak publicly at an early age gives students confidence that they carry with them throughout their professional careers and personal life.
The purpose of public speaking in school is to:
- communicate ideas
- or any combination of these.
Here are the secrets to mastering the art of public speaking.
The Five Cs:
Clearly enunciate and project your voice so that even those at the back of the room can hear you. Don’t mumble or use ‘um’ and ‘ah’ and speak clearly, but not too quickly.
Say what you mean and mean what you say. Display passion and knowledge in your address and speak with conviction. By ensuring your speech is logical and ordered you have a better chance of convincing your audience that your argument is sound.
Feel and act like you belong in front of any audience and make your presentation in an assured manner. Try to avoid fidgeting, pacing and know your speech by practicing if possible. Speak in a confident voice and look at your audience.
Assume control of the stage and the situation, and seek out ways to establish that you belong there. Take time before your speech to gather your thoughts and breathe. Focus on your breath for a few minutes, this will help relax your body and mind.
Alter the content and personality of your speech to suit the situation and your audience. For example don’t use jargon the audience may not understand and inject humour if the subject matter warrants it.
The Five Es:
1. Eye contact
Don’t just read off a paper or card; make eye contact with at least one person, but preferably many people. Speak to your audience with your voice and your eyes. Really acknowledge their presence. By making eye contact with your audience, you are inviting them into the conversion.
2. Engage your audience
Entertain, educate, or enlighten the audience. Try not to make it just about you and the content you have prepared – make it interactive at least some of the time. If your audience is fidgeting or losing interest (we hope this doesn’t happen!), you may need to mix things up a bit.
3. Enjoy the experience
Nobody enjoys listening to a flat, detached voice coming from a sad or disinterested speaker. Remember to enjoy the moment – use expression in your voice and actions and don’t be afraid to joke or fun fact (only when appropriate) and smile.
4. Explore the options
While it’s great to be fully prepared for your verbal presentation, don’t rely solely on notecards, especially when spontaneous, improvisational moments present themselves. Be flexible and use the feedback you receive from the audience to shape your speech to suit.
Your success as a speaker hinges on how well you bring the words and ideas to life. Use a variety of pitches and accents in order to avoid a monotone speech. Let your personality shine through as this will allow you to be expressive and will help to engage the audience.
Finally here is one last but very important tip: never run overtime!!! Stick to your allocated time limit and pace the speech so that you are not rushing towards the end. If possible practice in front of the mirror or family members and time yourself.
If your child is shy or has a voice that could use some additional projection and/or authority, then public speaking could improve those things and more. But even an outgoing child with good projection can gain a lot from learning the subtle art of public speaking to become more engaging. Learning to be an authoritative and comfortable public speaker can pay daily dividends.
Trinity Grammar School has been educating boys for over a century and we know what boys need to truly flourish and succeed. We understand the importance of learning to speak confidently in the public and our Debating Society provides opportunities in debating, mock trial, mooting and oratory.
To experience the Trinity difference for yourself, register to attend our Open Day.