By Suning Wang
While public speaking is one of the most common fears in both adults and kids alike, it can also teach many valuable skills. Learning how to not only convey ideas clearly but also defend them as well as learning to listen and respond to others’ points can be incredibly useful in both academic and social situations. However, even though many individuals--especially younger students--are intimidated by or uncomfortable with public speaking, overcoming that uneasiness is possible through gaining confidence in one’s ability to speak. Below are a few ways of doing just that!
1. Redefining the term “Public Speaking”
The formal name of “public speaking” is usually the most intimidating aspect to young students, and can deter them from engaging with it. Instead, it can be useful to encourage students to get involved with “giving speeches” or working on “presenting and defending ideas”. Redefining what public speaking and debate actually are may help the subject become a little more approachable for students.
2. Knowing You’re Not Alone
Because of public speaking being a widespread fear, many of the greatest public speakers and debaters have openly struggled with their discomfort with the activity. Oftentimes, hearing about those stories can increase one’s confidence by knowing it’s possible to become comfortable with and succeed at public speaking.
3. Encouraging by Example
Watching videos of a child’s idols and inspirations such as a political, academic, or celebrity figure giving speeches and debating can encourage students to “be just like them”. Knowing that their favorite people are able to present ideas confidently can instill confidence in students that they are able do the same! Additionally, many influential speeches can further inspire students to develop their skills in order to voice their own ideas and have an impact themselves.
4. “Playing” Speech and Debate
Certain games and activities can actually disguise lessons in presenting and defending points in a fun and interactive way. In the game “Two Truths and a Lie,” a game in which each student tells the group three facts about themselves, one of which is a lie, students actively work to defend their stories through answering peers’ questions. This is very similar to the cross-examination portion of a debate. Another example is in the game Mafia,” where student prove why another player is the “Mafia” and should be eliminated by using reasoning and logic to prove their point. Activities like these will ultimately encourage students to work on their debating and public speaking skills without even noticing it!
5. Learning from Yourself
It’s commonly said that your biggest critic is yourself. This fact actually has the potential to increase one’s confidence in public speaking. Recording speeches on video or audio and watching or listening, as awkward as it may be, can help someone working on their public speaking skills gain confidence. It brings to light certain areas of improvement that are only apparent to the speaker themself.
6. Finding a Supportive Coach
While observing yourself may be the most critical way of noticing areas of improvement, inexperienced speakers may not notice certain habits or small actions that can detract from the quality of the speech. Having expert coaching, such as from a veteran speaker, will help improve one’s speaking ability and thus instill more confidence in a public speaking student.
7. Practice, Practice, Practice!
Becoming skilled in public speaking does not happen overnight, but with continuous practice--whether it is simply giving oral presentations in class or competing in the speech and debate circuits--students will gradually become more comfortable with sharing and defending their ideas with confidence!
Overall, learning about public speaking can give even the shyest of students confidence to speak up and give voice to their opinions and ideas. Many young speakers find themselves unsure how to approach public speaking, but if given the right opportunity to learn about it and improve, becoming confident in speaking can prove to be incredibly rewarding and beneficial.