Recently a friend asked me “My son is 12 years old. What’s the right time for him to learn public speaking skills? Isn’t it too early to start?”
This is what I said to her. There are 7 things you need to know about public speaking.
1. The earlier you start, the easier it gets
J R Oppenheimer (the celebrated American theoretical physicist and professor at the University of California, Berkeley) spoke at societies in New York City when he was just 12 years old. His father provided him early exposure to public speaking and that helped Oppenheimer in his enviously high levels of self-confidence, innovation and leadership in his celebrated adult life.
2. Lays the foundation before the building is built
Children in their tweens and teens are starting on a journey of self-discovery. They are in constant search of an identity and for a safe place for them in the world. These are times when they start to feel judged by peers, parents and tutors. That’s when the feelings of inadequacy sets in – IF – that is not proactively offset with a boost in self-esteem and self-image.
The earlier you start public speaking, the earlier they feel confident to face strangers and strange situations that the future holds for them.
3. Assists in academics
These days most primary and secondary schools require their students to deliver presentations. As you might have noticed, teachers usually assign the opportunities to present mainly to the most outgoing, expressive and confident of students. Those who do not have a demonstrated skill in presentations are mercilessly left behind. This even affects their academic grades. If you have read academic reports, it sometime reads like this “Peter is an intelligent student, it would have been great if he could speak up in class”
However, let us not just pass the blame to the teachers! Aren’t we wired to be impressed by those who can express themselves better? Those children who can’t express themselves effectively are unfortunately left behind.
Unfair? Not really. If you can’t speak up, you won’t be heard.
4. Seize opportunities to lead
Leadership opportunities in schools are almost always provided to those children who have the ability to speak, lead and persuade other children. Children who cannot measure up to these leadership expectations would be left caught in their “leadership-gap”. This gap widens with time, unless there is a positive intervention. That’s why so many intellectually outstanding children do not make it to leadership roles in later life. Just because no one ever told them that’s important! No one guided them and they lose out on opportunities to lead. (Hint: Have you ever worked for a dumb boss? You get the idea.)
5. Speak up and stand above peers
Since most people have a fear of public speaking, the person who can speak, lead and persuade is looked upto. They get noticed. They get envied. They get respected. A great morale boost for children as they prepare for adulthood. This gives them an “elevated sense of social dominance” over peers. This boosts their confidence and future leadership opportunities. (Hint: If you can lead, people give you opportunities to lead.)
Motivational speaker and thought leader Les Brown told it best. He once said “Develop your communication skills – because once you open your mouth you tell the world who you are – you can really begin to climb the ladder of success and do things that will literally amaze you!”
6. Confidence begets confidence
Confidence begets confidence. Every time you stand up to speak, you get a mild boost in your level of self-confidence. When you are more self-confident, you are more ready to speak again. Soon this “cyclic-ritual” of speaking in front of an audience turbo-charges your confidence and speaking becomes something you eagerly look forward to.
7. The right time to learn any life-skill is N-O-W!
The right time to learn swimming is before you fall in the deep sea. Public speaking is an essential life skill every child needs to learn. You see, not everyone gets the opportunity to learn public speaking. If you ever get the right opportunity to pick up this invaluable life-skill from the right person, just don’t wait for the right time!
That would be one of the best investment for your child’s future and he/she will be grateful for your timely guidance.
Do you feel that more confidence could have helped you in your career or profession?
Do you feel a boost in your confidence at a younger age could have helped you to be better prepared for life today?
(This article first appeared in Thought Expressions)
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