Public Speaking 101

What You Need:

  • paper (full-size, index cards, or a notebook, based on student preference)
  • pencil or pen
  • a videocamera on a tripod

What You Do:

Discuss with your child what makes a good speech. Keep in mind that a student’s speaking skills are usually evaluated based on the content and the delivery of a speech. List these ideas on a piece of paper. Be sure to include that:

  • Good speakers speak clearly and slowly, and articulate their words.
  • They make eye contact with their audience.
  • While speeches often do not have to be memorized, a good speaker refers to, rather than reads from, her notes.
  • She uses an appropriate volume.
  • She speaks expressively, so that her speech doesn’t sound flat or monotone.
  • She prepares the content of the speech ahead of time so that she is sure to cover important material.
  • She uses visual aids, when appropriate.
  • She practices her speech in advance.
  • She pays attention to the time. If she’s only allowed five minutes, she tries to prepare and deliver a five-minute speech.
  • She avoids using extra words, such as “ummm."

Help your child to get rid of her speaking jitters by doing a speech at home in front of family members:

  1. Give each family member the same assignment: Write a biographical (a life story) speech about another family member. Be sure to encourage humor in the speech. Does Dad like pickles on his ice cream? Tell about it in the speech! Getting the audience to laugh can be a big ice-breaker for someone with stage fright. Not to mention, it’s just plain fun!
  2. Give each person time to prepare notes. It isn’t necessary to write out every single word of the speech, as that will only encourage the speaker to read directly from notecards. Instead, encourage brief notetaking, with key words that will help the speaker to remember important points in the speech. Be sure to number notecards, so that they are in the correct order for the speech. Add a smile face to each notecard to remind yourself to relax as you speak.
  3. Gather the family together for the speeches. If available, set up the video camera on the tripod to record the speeches.
  4. Have the adults go first. The rest of the family is the audience.
  5. Don’t forget to applaud each family member’s speech. Standing ovations are good, too!
  6. After everyone is finished speaking, watch the video together and give each other feedback. What did the speaker do well? Could you hear the speaker? What could be improved upon? Refer to the list of good speaking skills, if necessary. This will help your child to keep those good speaking skills fresh in her mind.

Keep the video as a family memento. While your high schooler’s speech will be over soon, the tape will last forever!

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