Public speaking and making your voice heard may be the most important skill a person can have. Great speakers are more confident and respected, all the way from their earliest classroom days into their adult lives.
Communication Academy teaches Public Speaking as one of our four core subjects, and so we know that great public speaking starts with these five tips:
- Great public speakers are Confident
- Great public speakers are Loud
- Great public speakers are Clear
- Great public speakers are Connected
- Great public speakers are Expressive
Public speaking is a skill we use every time we talk in front of an audience, whether that’s a class presentation, a job interview, or a political debate. The skills we learn for public speaking can even help us in casual conversations and making new friends! Different types of public speaking focus more on some of these tips, but the basics of all five are necessary for all public speaking, no matter what the purpose or situation.
- Confidence is the most important thing a speaker can have – and it is a skill that can be trained, even for those of us who find it doesn’t come naturally. The most important ways to train confidence are to practice challenging speech such as tongue twisters or dramatic speeches in front of audiences we can trust, and to learn ways to control our natural nervousness and excitement.
- Being loud is a necessity for great public speaking, because an audience that cannot hear your words will not be able to understand them. But did you know that there’s more than one way to be loud? Screaming or shouting using your vocal cords can be loud, but it strains our voices. By standing up straight and using our lungs to push out more breath as we speak, we can create more volume in a way that allows for hours of vocal endurance and a more pleasant sound to our voices!
- Clarity of speech is how we can understand each other. Shaping each syllable and sound carefully makes a speech both easier for your audience to understand and also more effective at gaining their attention and respect. Practice is key here – a speaker can use tongue-twisters, poetry, or singing to challenge their skills and improve.
- Connecting to your audience is a matter mostly of body language and word choice. The body language can vary extensively by culture; for public speaking to an American audience, the single most important aspect is to make eye contact with individual audience members and then move on, with only short breaks to check notes. Word choice is in some ways more intuitive, but often comes mostly with experience and by listening to other speakers, so that you can adapt your speech to be simpler for younger children, more formal for older adults, or more dramatic for theatre or poetry.
- Last, but not least, is expressiveness. For theatre, poetry, song, and other artistic forms of speech expressiveness is a deep and important part of the process. Controlling the emotions you show, and showing them to the right degree is important – for an actor on stage, emotions need to not only match the character they are to portray, but must also be exaggerated enough to be obvious without becoming ridiculous. Expressiveness is still important for formal or academic speech, however: To be the best speaker you can be, you must put the right amount of energy and enthusiasm into your words to hold your audience’s attention and make it easy for them to become caught up in your speech!
Here’s an activity we use in some of our Public Speaking classes that you can do with your student, which will let them improve their skills and have fun doing it: Confidence-building tongue twisters!
First, have them pick a tongue-twister, preferably a random one. Then have them say it aloud one time just to get used to it, without worrying about saying it quickly or perfectly yet. Then they need to say the tongue twister three times as fast as they can, without correcting any mistakes – in fact, if they aren’t making mistakes, they probably aren’t speaking fast enough! After that, they should say the tongue twister they chose three times as clearly as they can, even if that requires them to slow down in their speech.
Together, saying a tongue twister seven times in that pattern will help a student build their confidence and clarity of speech, by experiencing mistakes in a safe way – and seeing immediately how they can fix those mistakes for next time.
Almost any tongue twister will work for this activity, but here’s a list of some particularly useful ones:
- Six slippery snails slid slowly seaward
- How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
- Mister Tongue Twister tried to train his tongue to twist and turn
- Cat catchers can’t catch caught cats
- Clever cooks cook cupcakes quickly
- I saw a kitten eating chicken in the kitchen
Interested in learning more? Have a student who wants to improve themselves? We run summer camps, holiday camps, and weekly classes all year long for ages 6 through 14 and grades 2 through 8 to improve all these skills and more – and to have fun doing it. You can see our offerings here and choose which classes are right for your student!