I write a lot about the fear of public speaking, I call it “Presenteritis”. The truth is that the set of symptoms people often experience as a result of stage fright are at least in part the consequence of a lack of confidence. That’s why the best way to fight a fear of public speaking is to get good at it.
Increasingly, we all need to do at least some sort of public speaking in our lives. It’s hard not to argue, then, that we should start getting good at public speaking as early as possible. For me, that means teaching some public speaking in schools.
Think of it like learning a new language with its own special syntax and rules, particular pronunciations and peculiarities, and the younger you learn a new language, the more fluent and confident you will be in it.
We may well be letting down our children if we don’t give them experience of public speaking as part of their education. That’s why I love seeing stories online and in the press about children enjoying classes in speaking at school.
Public speaking can teach young people greater self-confidence and self-esteem. It will enhance their communication skills and help them think about how they express themselves. Understanding how to persuade and share information is a hugely important skill that is becoming ever more crucial in our digital age.
Above and beyond how employable good public speaking skills make a school leaver, however, is that question of confidence. I recently judged for Rotary International Britain and Ireland (RIBI) Youth Speaks Competition, and watching the young people flourish as they developed their speaking styles was one of the best parts of the job.
This article by Melissa Benn – daughter of Tony – is a great case study, and features some fascinating statistics. “According to a paper by the influential Education Endowment Foundation, pupils who participate in spoken language interventions make approximately five months’ additional progress over a year, and such interventions are listed among the top 10 most effective methods of improving teaching.”
That seems as good a reason as any to focus on fostering great public speaking skills early – and not just when the nerves kick in at work!