Ask anyone, young or old, about their greatest fear and you’ll likely hear, “Speaking in public!” That’s right…most of us suffer from glossophobia…I know I did. I had two lines in my first school play and promptly spaced on the second. My wedding vows, practiced about 857 times, didn’t go so well either. (Thankfully, it didn’t affect the outcome!)
Thankfully, glossophobia can be overcome through training and experience. As parents and mentors, we can help build confident, skillful communicators at a surprisingly early age.
Every presentation situation is unique and requires good planning in order to succeed. Here are some key skills to teach young people that can help him or her win over an audience:
- Effective planning and preparation—knowing the purpose and goals, audience, venue and layout, time allotment, technology and logistics, and formality.
- Recognizing it’s about them (the audience) and fulfilling their needs and expectations—not about you. Arrogance kills!
- Engaging the audience through questions and stories—and avoiding excessive detail and jargon.
- Being enthusiastic and expressive and paying close attention to their body language to gauge their interest. Be friendly and natural and don’t forget to smile!
- Always saving room for questions and not running over your allotted time.
- Making good eye contact with each audience member (where possible)
- Not including more than half the number of slides as minutes you have to present or more than five bullet points on a slide.
- If possible, knowing the personalities of your key audience members and adapting accordingly. Busy executives like compelling and succinct comments. Analytical people like facts and detail.
Perhaps the best advice we can give young speakers (or take to heart ourselves) is to think “share with” rather than “lecture to.” No one is nervous when sharing with friends, right? That’s the key mindset to have. Make it as conversational as you can, and, by all means, have fun!
Have you developed some good advice or strategies for improving your own speaking skills that you can share with young people? Please post your ideas and questions below; we’d love to hear from you! And pass this blog on to a friend, encouraging them to sign up for our e-mail newsletter. There is always room for more in our online community!