Public Speaking for Kids – 10 Top Tips

Public speaking is an important skill to learn when you’re a kid! It helps build confidence, improves language development skills, social skills and builds courage and leadership skills. Public speaking for kids has numerous benefits, but what are the best ways to improve speaking skills? Here are Andy’s top tips!

Introduction to Public Speaking for Kids

My son Andy won 2 public speaking competitions at school – one when he was 6 years old in Kindergarten and the second time 2 years later in Year 2. In year 1 and year 3 he was a finalist as well. The speeches he delivered were between 2-3 minutes, in front of an assembly of 500 children and adults. Andy’s content was interesting, he engaged his audience, smiled and spoke with volume in his voice and confidence! He fully deserved the trophies he won for this and it built his confidence SO much!

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Of course as a parent, I helped to prepare him for these competitions but when it came time to deliver, it was all him!

Andy has assisted me to put these 10 tips together to help other kids with their public speaking!

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public speaking for kids
The best way to ensure success in public speaking is to be well prepared and practice!

1. Preparation and practice

Give yourself plenty of preparation time – don’t leave it until the last minute. Preparation will include deciding on your topic, ensuring your content is interesting for the audience and varied in terms of style of content to be delivered. Starting with a ‘Sizzling start’ is sometimes a great way to capture your audience from the get go. A sizzling start might be a quick statement such as “Quick! Attention, attention everyone! See, you all looked at me didn’t you?!” as a start to a speech about Great Tips for Public Speaking and getting attention, for example. It precedes your actual speech and acts as a quick way to get the attention of your audience in those first few seconds, followed by a few words about what your speech will be about. Your speech may also include quick lists, accompanied by holding up fingers one, two and three. For example, “There are three things to remember when making eye contact with your audience, One, ****, Two and Three” while holding fingers up. You can also use humour in there to try to make your audience laugh! These are just ways to vary what you are delivering so it’s not just a one tone, same style speech the whole way through.

Other ways of preparing include writing your speech in dot points on palm cards and having these ready to go. It’s helpful if you know most of the speech off by heart, having the palm cards there as a backup. Make sure your timing is correct. If the speech needs to be 2 minutes, aim for either just short of or just over 2 mins, but try not to be too short or too long by 15 seconds or more. The closer to the time expectation, the better.

Practice practice practice!! And practice some more! Recording yourself doing the speech is also a really good way to prepare so you can see for yourself where you may need to improve. The more you practice your speech, the more you will improve, meaning when it comes time to deliver it, you’ll feel more confident.

2. Eye contact

Have you ever noticed that when you’re watching someone do a speech, if they’re looking at you or looking around, you can make more of a connection with what they’re saying than if they were looking down at notes or palm cards the whole time. Eye contact is really important. Look around at your audience and scan the room. If you need to look down at your palm cards, that’s perfectly ok but make it just a few seconds in between looking up again. Ideally, most of your time will be spent looking at and around your audience, with minimal glances down at palm cards.

public speaking for kids
Let your personality shine through in your speech delivery! Use expression and smile!

3. Confidence

TRY to look confident, speak confidently and stand with confidence. Remember your posture! If you’re not FEELING confident and you’re feeling like nerves are getting the better of you, just FAKE the confidence. Even faked confidence can fool your audience, and sometimes when you’re faking this confidence, you will fool yourself, leading to less nerves and a better delivery anyway!

4. Expression and personality

Your audience WANTS to connect with you so let your personality shine through in your speech and make sure you use expression in your voice to match your content. If you’re trying to make a point, allow your voice to tell half the story! You can adjust your tone and your inflections if you’re making a statement vs asking a rhetorical question within your speech. Ask yourself if you would be interested if you were the audience to your own speech. A monotone voice for the duration of the speech will engage the audience much less than someone who actually looks excited to share their speech and where the excitement and their personality is being expressed through their use of voice and expression.

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5. Voice volume

Whether you’re using a microphone or not, make sure you are not speaking too softly, making it hard for your audience to hear you properly, or too loud, coming across as yelling. It is a good idea to find out prior to your speech whether you will be using a microphone or not, so you can practice getting the volume right. Try to get some feedback from family members when you’re practicing to see what they think of the volume of your voice.

6. Breathe and Pause

It may seem obvious, but don’t forget to breathe! If you are feeling a bit nervous, breathing properly is a great strategy to slow down your heart rate and allow you to pace yourself and seem more relaxed. There’s a tendency when feeling nerves to also speed up the speech but make sure you speak slow enough, speak clearly and pause as needed and as appropriate within the speech. You might need to pause slightly after making a joke, to encourage your audience to have a giggle, or you could pause after making a point, before moving on to your next point. Breathing properly and added pauses are a really important part of your delivery to reduce nerves and to ensure you come across as relaxed and poised.

public speaking for kids
Make sure you have some strategies in place in case nerves creep up on you while you’re on stage.

7. Consider some props

This one is optional but if you do decide upon using some props, ensure that it’s only one or two and it’s appropriate for your speech content. If you think it supports a particular point you’re making, it can be a strong addition to your speech but if it’s not really relevant or you have too many, it can just be distracting, taking away from the strength of your speech. Some examples of props might be a book you are showing the audience which is related to your topic, or a piece of fruit and a vegetable to hold up if you’re doing a speech about healthy eating. Props can also take your audience’s attention away from you for a moment and onto the prop which can be a nice relief to have the focus diverted, even if only for a few moments. This can then help to boost your confidence once again as you draw the attention back to yourself. Remember, if you do decide to use props, use them sparingly.

8. Hand gestures, but don’t fidget

Hand gestures are really important if they’re natural and support what you’re communicating but make sure it’s not coming across as fidgeting! If you’re fidgeting during your speech, this can be very distracting for your audience and indicates nerves or lack of confidence. Fidgeting might include touching your face, swaying your body from side to side, touching your hair, shifting your weight, nervous coughing, scratching or adjusting your clothes. Try to keep your hands either holding palm cards, by your side or use them to your advantage with natural hand gestures that are appropriate as per the content. If you’re listing three things, hold up your fingers one, two, three. If you’re asking asking questions to your audience, your hands might be raised to the ceiling beside you in a question pose. You might use your hands to cover your eyes briefly to make a point, to make circular movements while explaining something, or even pointing towards your audience to make a point and to try to engage them.

9. Embrace nerves, have strategies

One of the biggest things you can do to build your courage is to embrace your nerves and do it anyway! Most people will feel some degree of nerves before doing public speaking and that’s ok! Your nerves will decrease the more prepared you are and if you have some strategies in place as to what you will do if you do get up on stage and feel quite nervous, you will be even better off. So, do yourself a favour and come up with some strategies for while you’re on stage to decrease the nervous feelings. Some suggestions are:

  • Imagine you are delivering the speech to only one person. Remember when you were practicing and you were only doing the speech to mum or dad or a sibling? Every one of those people in the audience, by themseles, are one person. So, just imagine you are delivering it to them one on one. It shouldn’t really be any different delivering it to a large group.
  • Breathe! Slowly and effectively, deeply and mindfully. It really does help.
  • If you make a mistake, just start saying that point again. Don’t make it a big deal.
  • Stand up straight and fake that confidence!
  • Imagine yourself winning that public speaking award and feel confident in what you’ve prepared.

You can find further tips on managing public speaking anxiety here.

10. Smile and engage your audience!

This will depend on the content you are delivering and how appropriate a smile would be but a smile really does go a long way! It could be at just the beginning of your speech as you welcome your audience, or it could be at the end as you thank your audience for listening to you, or it could be throughout when making a joke, when looking around your audience or any time you think it’s appropriate. It’s amazing how infectious a smile can be and if your audience is feeling that you want to be there, they will be more inclined to want to listen! Your audience will enjoy a bit of engagement from you as well, whether that is through the smiling or it might be that you’re asking them to raise their hand in answer to a question or to nod in agreeance with something you’ve said. As a speaker, you want your audience to be engaged and as interested as possible, so be generous with your smiles and let your personality shine through!

public speaking for kids
Public speaking builds language development skills, social skills, and leadership qualities, and develops self-confidence and self-esteem!

Summary – Public Speaking for Kids

Andy and I hope these tips help you! Just remember the main points; prepare and practice, let your personality come through in your speech with smiles, use of voice expression and hand gestures, and have some strategies in place to combat nerves if they do creep up on you..

You can find more public speaking tips in these articles online here and here.

The Dept of Education Arts Unit also has a wealth of information on public speaking and developing those important skills. You can find them here.

Once your child has had a go at public speaking and overcome fear or nerves, they will build their courage and confidence, essentially filling their bucket and developing belief in themselves as well as resilience, allowing them to take more risks and continue trying new things.

Have you tried public speaking? How did you or your child go? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear about it!

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