When Pitch Lab was born we were certain only salespeople and entrepreneurs would attend our workshops. What a surprise to see the room also filled with so many talented marketers, project managers and executives!
What we learned is most attendees have one thing in common: the fear of public speaking prevents them from helping their clients succeed, getting the promotion they deserve or landing their dream job.
So when our local elementary school asked for public speaking coaches to volunteer their time, I jumped at the opportunity to give my daughter and her friends an advantage we all wish we had at their age.
And truth be told I've never been great at sports, so I was also stoked to be called “Coach.”
Then came the hard part: figuring out how to translate the techniques we use to help professionals at Pitch Lab to a room full of first graders. How do you simplify the message to resonate with seven-year-olds?
But fear not, teaching public speaking to kids doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are 5 easy ways to give your kids a head start:
1 - Content Is Key
Make sure your kid actually enjoys what he or she is reciting. Don’t put more pressure on what’s actually being said than you have to.
Young kids are naturally going to gravitate towards Lego Batman over Abe Lincoln, so use that to your advantage. Get your kids started by reciting a funny poem from Shel Silverstein, a page out of Hop on Pop or their favorite monologue from Captain Underpants.
And to start out, keep it as short as possible. Comedy Works gives its first-timers two minutes max on New Talent Night. Trust me, even those two minutes can feel like an eternity when things don’t go right.
2 - Manage Stage Fright from the Start
As a parent, I’m a huge proponent of validating your kids’ feelings. When it comes to stage fright, you need to do the same thing.
Share with your child that it’s not about getting rid of the butterflies in your tummy, it’s about getting the butterflies to fly information.
During class, instead of trying to calm down before we went on stage, we stood up tall in our best Wonder Woman/Superman pose and said, “I AM EXCITED!”
The superhero posture gives your child a subconscious feeling of confidence and also leads to a few laughs to keep it fun.
Furthermore, studies show that reframing public speaking anxiety as excitement leads to feeling more in control, and ultimately a better performance.
3 - There’s Power in Dramatic Pause
Most children tend to race through content while performing on stage. Maybe they’re excited. Maybe it’s a strategy to cover up their stage fright. Or maybe it’s simply because they want to get it over with.
Here’s the punchline. Your child doesn’t talk too fast. He or she just isn’t pausing enough.
Don’t tell your kid to slow down. Rather, teach her where to pause to allow the listener to catch up and build tension where needed.
Like a graphic designer uses white space, that’s how you need to instruct your child to use dramatic pauses.
4 - Over-prepare
When it comes to public speaking, nothing matches the advantage of preparation. Forget coaching your child's body language; keep focused on practice.
The silver bullet for helping your kid is repetition.
As your child memorizes the content, her delivery will become more authentic and her body language will improve naturally. Start slow and build momentum as you go.
At school, we practiced weekly in the classrooms, but their homework was to recite their piece two times a day. Every day.
5 - Give Lots of Positive Feedback
Never start critiquing right away. In fact, don’t do anything to discourage your child while practicing.
Say you’re proud of him or her for getting up there, and encourage her to keep going. Your positive feedback is paramount. Build her self-confidence and the rest will fall into place.
You’re giving your kid a head start on a skill that they will use for the rest of their lives. Is there really anything more to do than applaud?
Pitch Lab is More Than Just Child’s Play
Our clients are smart people who do amazing work but want help presenting their ideas better.
Pitch Lab produces custom workshops that break down the comedy techniques the pros use on stage to help your team be more confident, engaging presenters.
Want to learn more about how we can help your team? Let’s chat!