Develop the art of public speaking

The art of persuading, inspiring and winning over a crowd — small or big — is an essential skill for success in life and the workplace, says Jayalakshmi Vaidyanathan.

Public speaking is a valued communication and leadership skill. Throughout history, political and mass leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King have changed the history of nations through their oratory skills. The art of persuading, inspiring and winning over a crowd — small or big — is an essential skill for success in life and the workplace.

From presenting papers and PowerPoint projects in school to presenting ideas and pitches later to boss and clients, public speaking is a highly valued competency. And its never too early to introduce children to this art to enable them to explain, inspire, inform and persuade others with their way of thinking.

Here are some ways parents can nurture and develop their children’s public speaking capabilities:

A Family Affair

Once a week, gather the entire family together to share ideas/thoughts through short speeches, for instance, after dinner, or during a picnic.

Choose a familiar idea or topic and set a fixed time for the speech, say, one or two minutes for each speaker.

Encourage the speakers to deliver the talk using cue cards, rather than merely reading from a paper.

Encourage your child to memorise her speech and practise it in front of a mirror.

Record the talk and replay to improve intonation, pronunciation, and body language

Advise children to connect with the audience while speaking

Practise, practise, practise

Public speaking games

Spoken games i.e games which use words instead of cards, boards, game pieces, and other paraphernalia, played en famille not only help develop childrens oratory skills, but also strengthen family bonds. For instance, you could play the game ‘Ukti, which means ‘expression in Hindi.

Ukti play instructions

Design cards, each containing a statement/topic, and place them on the floor face down. Each family member picks one card, and speaks on the subject or topic for about 30 seconds to one minute.

Parents may share their own experiences to encourage children to tell their stories. It is essential that children are not interrupted or prompted with words, while they are speaking.

Some sample statements to start the game

If you were given a years holiday, what would you do with the time?

If you could change one rule in your school or office, what would it be?

If you get a chance to perform on a stage, what will you perform?

What do you like about your favourite game?

Who is your favourite character in a book or movie? Why?

If there is one invention you could create, what would that be?

Narrate your favourite story.

You just climbed to the top of Mount Everest, and a TV crew wants to interview you. What will you tell them?

Public speaking training tips

Choose positive topics to spark success-oriented imagination and charge children’s minds with hope and visionary thinking.

Don’t compare children with siblings/peers or share negative feedback as its important to remove any fear of speaking before an audience.

Provide constructive feedback and praise their efforts, not the result.

Participate in public speaking activities so that children can learn by observing you.

Encourage children to be relaxed and practice as excellent public speaking skills are the result of intensive practice.

(Jayalakshmi Vaidyanathan is the founder of Satori Life Skills Solutions, Bangalore)

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