I try to avoid hobby horses. Not only are the real kind best reserved for small children … the figurative kind are almost always really boring to everyone else. We all have a friend with a pet subject – and we might often fondly wish they’d talk about it less!
The truth is, though, that I’ve been known to extol the virtues of public speaking in schools. On LinkedIn, I’m often sharing stories that focus on the benefits of equipping students early with the skills they will need if they are to communicate effectively in the future. I’m hoping the topic’s not turning into my hobby horse … because I do think it’s important.
Why? Well, communicating effectively is among the most important and transferable skills we can acquire. In our increasingly service-oriented economies, talking to people – informing them and persuading them of things – is a large part of what we all do.
Even better, how we do that often doesn’t change so much with what we do. It is a commonplace that today’s young people will change careers more than their parents and grandparents did … and skills like speaking can equip them really well to be flexible and focused in their working life.
The truth is, too, that speaking is a bit like riding a bike or swimming. I don’t mean here that you never forget (I wouldn’t like to dive into the sea if my last swimming lesson was twenty years ago!). I mean that the skill is easier to acquire – and much less intimidating – if we acquire it early.
In my line of work, I meet a lot of nervous speakers. These individuals aren’t uniquely ill-disposed to speaking – far from it. Rather, they have simply never become used to the idea of presenting in public. If only they had – if only it had never been seen as such an unusual thing to do in the first place – then it is likely that their fear would never have developed.
In other words, starting students early with speaking is a win-win. It provides them with a critical skill for their futures while also preventing all the knock-on effects of not teaching them how to find their own voices. We have generations of nervous speakers who might have been cured of their Presenteritis early. Think of it like getting your childhood jabs.
In conclusion, we should all be thinking about how to help our young people equip themselves for a future in which speaking will be ever more important. In all our excitement about new technologies, we forget that the one constant is each other – people. If we can talk to anyone, and do so effectively, we’ll be set up for life. Isn’t that what school is all about?