Lessons from the Classroom
3 Common Habits of Young Public Speakers
In developing young public speakers, it is important to identify specific habits to address and correct at the outset. The common refrain for young public speakers is that they are generally “not confident” and are, accordingly, not good public speakers. The reality though requires a bit of unpacking. There are various specific habits and traits we identify in our classes that indicate a lack of confidence. In targeting these specific habits early, we create an effective and efficient learning path for our young students rather than merely pushing your child to “just be more confident”.
Beyond the classroom, identifying these habits at home or even in school helps to reinforce their learning process. In this article, we will share three simple observations of the common habits faced by our young public speakers that underlie a lack of speaking confidence.
Habit #1: Avoiding Eye Contact
Eye contact is an intimate body language, often used as one of the key tools in connecting with an audience member, especially as a public speaker. It is also the easiest to avoid! One of the observations we make for students who are new to public speaking is the tendency to avoid eye contact. This tendency is often an indication of nervousness or a lack of self-confidence in presenting themselves as a speaker.
Given its nature, eye contact is also an easy habit to take notice of at home (you don’t even need a public speaking context to do so!). Habit-building can start early. You can start noticing your child’s habits in casual conversations or especially when they are speaking with someone they have just met. Eye contact avoidance can also manifest in the form of distraction or refusal to engage the other party in a conversation. Start by gently alerting your child to these habits and create early awareness!
Habit #2: Body Language Leakages
Body language leakages are actions that break the plane/alignment of your body while you are presenting. These actions tend to be distracting or do not contribute to the message or purpose of the speech. Body language leakages tend to feature habits that have developed for some time without any early intervention. By picking out these habits early, parents can help to create early awareness of distracting habits.
One of the common body language leakages we observe from our young public speakers stem from fidgeting. These leakages can include swaying of arms, gesturing from below the stomach area or even resting your bodyweight only on one leg. These leakages will prevent a speaker from projecting confidence, especially when delivering an inspirational or persuasive speech. One way of noting these habits is by practising strong body posture at home and encouraging purposeful hand gestures in daily conversations. A simple hand gesture may be that first step in inculcating powerful presentation habits for children!
Habit #3: Voice Projection and Volume
Another strong indication of a lack of confidence from new students are those that limit their voice projection to only within their comfort zone. Exploring changes in volume when presenting is an effective method of making an obvious change in the energy of your presentation. In the same vein, a lack of confidence usually manifests as a reluctance to project one’s voice to fill the entire room or to explore modulations in volume.
Beyond speaking before an audience, habits such as mumbling or inadequate enunciation may develop as part of a child’s vocal abilities as a young public speaker. To avoid this, identifying these habits early will help guide your child to step out into the spotlight – with a tremendous shout!
Home or School?
The three observations can start from home, but ultimately, early detection of such habits should be complemented with a precise intervention method. Public speaking courses for children, for example, will allow a consistent, challenging and structured environment for your child to start positive habit-building. But if a public speaking course is not your cup of tea – remember that intervention can also start from home!