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The Art of Public Speaking

Classes and tips to tackle kids' fear of public speaking



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Public speaking at any age can be intimidating. So for kids who are shy or unsure of themselves, delivering a book report or debating a hot topic in front of their classmates is a tall order. “Students start at ground zero. They most likely have no experience with public speaking and have problems just introducing themselves,” says Jim Hunt, a board member of New Jersey Orators, a nonprofit public-speaking program for kids 7 to 18. 

With the new school year just a month away, now’s a good time for students to brush up on the basics or enroll in a public-speaking or drama class, so they’ll be ready to face the class with confidence.

The importance of oration

Hunt believes it’s crucial to instill public-speaking skills in students as early as possible, so they’ll have plenty of time to practice before they’re old enough to interview for college or a summer job. 

“Most students have no clue how to speak in interviews, when you have 30 seconds to impress an employer,” he explains. “If you start young, you avoid pitfalls,” such as the inability to verbalize thoughts clearly or to connect through eye contact and positive body language. 

“When you get into the work force, you have to be able to communicate with people,” continues Charles Conway, director of education and community engagement at Wilmington’s Delaware Theatre Company, which integrates public-speaking fundamentals into its acting classes for kids 8 to 18. “Life is a group project, so we encourage students to discover their individual talents and strengths, work with each other, and through this their confidence grows.”

Next page: the role of debate & drama in public speaking; plus, a list of local public speaking/drama classes

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