Basics Of Public Speaking For Teenagers (Gitonga Mutani & Muthoni Omukhango)

From history, we see that communication is the backbone of any society because it allows us to form connections, influence decisions, and motivate change. One of the communication methods is public speaking. It is however, one of the most dreaded forms of communication.

It is important for us to empower our children with this art because in the working world, public speaking is a vital skill to have. While some children take to it naturally, others tend to be more fearful of standing and talking in front of a crowd.

Public speaking helps our children to be bold in sharing their faith, have improved communication skills, increased self-esteem, better planning experience and the power of persuasion.

The challenge with public speaking is not necessarily the words, it is the presentation.

1 Corinthians 14:9 (NIV)  So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.

The Four Categories Of Speakers

1)            Those that abhor anything that puts them in public

2)            Those that believe they cannot speak in public

3)            Those that could make great speakers but have very poor skills

4)            Excellent speakers

The first group, which carries the majority of people, lies in the group of the young king Saul in 1 Samuel 10: 22. Saul is said to have hidden when the Israelites were looking for him to anoint him king. Anything that puts this group in public light seems scary and undoable.

The second group belongs to the Moses type in Exodus 4:10. Regardless of the highest level of training and exposure, they still believe they cannot speak in public.

The third group belongs to the Apostle Paul type in 2 Corinthians 10:10. The Bible records “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing”. It is clear that his writing prowess was unquestionable but his public speaking was wanting.

The fourth group belongs to the Apollos type in Acts 18: 24-25. He is said to have spoken with great fervor while teaching about Jesus Christ. This group also has Jesus Christ Himself as the best example – He is the greatest public speaker ever.

The good news is that public speaking is an art. It can be taught and learnt, it can be acquired with practice and it is unavoidable in the 21st century. So no matter which category you belong to, you must start now.

Before Any Speaking Engagement…

1) Prepare

Before any speaking engagement you have to prepare. Make it a personal rule never to pick emergency engagements unless it is a follow up of a previous talk or it is an area whose content is in your fingertips 110%. There are three things you need to prepare on as outlined below:

a)            Personal preparedness: the target is to reach the Ephesians 6:19 scenario whenever you open your mouth in front of people, every word should be impactful. Before every engagement you must pray – for your audience, for the organization of the event, for the landing of the content, for understanding, for every question that shall be asked. You should basically pray for every variable and these variables are in the hundreds, anything can go wrong at whatever time.

You must be in control of your emotional and physical stability before facing your audience.

Your confidence or lack off will reflect on the content you deliver.

b)            Content preparedness: be a master of the area you are speaking on. Never attempt for any sake to get into an area you are not sure of. Mumbling inaudible things in front of expectant crowds is the worst nightmare for public speakers. Avoid the lure of accepting things that you have nothing but a vague idea of.

c)            Environmental preparedness: whenever you accept an invitation to speak make efforts to know the settings you will find yourself in.

Find out everything possible about:

  • Your audience, the number of expected listeners, the number of participants,
  • The setting – is it a panel, an interview, or a podium setting.
  • Are you the key speaker? Are other people speaking before and after you?
  • Are you supposed to bring along any assistants, props etc?
  • Is your speech the main and only activity or are you speaking at the sidelines of other happenings? 
  • How will the room be set up?
  • Are you carrying any equipment or is the organizer working with a list of what you need?

For paid engagements, what does the pay cover? Accommodation, travel, a plus one etc. When will you get paid? Be at ease when you ask all these questions. Preparation is a must, that way should a mishap occur, you are ready. Remember Murphy’s Law at all times, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”.

2) Practice Your Speech

Children should embrace the art of practicing their speech in front of a mirror or just saying it out to themselves before facing the crowd. You should practice it so well that you can almost do it word for word without reference to your index cards. This is not new. The greatest speakers of all times have been known to practice their speeches up to 40 times before they ever spoke.

D-Day: The Day You Deliver The Speech

1)            Clarity of mind is key. In order to focus on perfect delivery, whenever possible, make it your practice to avoid conflicting engagements on the same day. If you have to speak at different venues try your best to make sure the speeches are related.

2)            Arrive early. Getting to the venue early has very many advantages. You get to learn the audience as they settle, you have time to reflect on your presentation and you are settled to present which adds onto your confidence level.

The Speech Itself

1)            Presentation. Dress for the occasion; if it is a casual event, be in smart casual wear, and if it is formal, be in formal wear. If there is a color scheme please, by all means, dress in accordance. There is nothing as bad as starting your speech on the wrong foot before you even open your mouth.

2)            Your gifts, talents and purpose. If you are using your portfolio as part of the presentation, make sure your display is creative and visible to the audience at all times. You never know where the photos of the event may land. Colossians 4:5 encourages us to make use of every opportunity.

3)            Back up. If you have prepared your presentation on electronic gadgets, have another copy in one or two other sources. Sometimes gadgets can fail you and you might need to retrieve the presentation from another source.

 If you are the freestyle speaker, it is also important to carry index cards or record on your phone. Anything can happen even to the best of us.

4)            Think outside the box. Be creative with your delivery so that you can keep your audience engaged. The outcome you want after your speech is to create a hunger for more.

5)            Manage nervousness. Even the most experienced speakers suffer from a bout of nervousness once in a while. Use the beginning of your speech as a moment to relax. The introduction moment is everything. Let the audience focus on you while you get a moment to convert your timidity into enthusiasm for the content you are about to convey.

6)            Imagery and humor. Jesus gave eccentric speeches. Thousands stood or sat keenly listening to Him because He connected with them at all levels. A proper sense of humor will keep your audience clinging onto your every word.

7)            Chunks. If your expected delivery time is more than twenty minutes, divide your content into blocks of less than 20 minutes each. In between the chunks you can create reflection moments like questions or activities. Remember Acts 20:9 – don’t kill your hearers (Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead).

8)            Avoid extremes. Too long a speech is boring; too short a speech speaks unpreparedness. If you have a timed session, always end within the set time. Never exceed the scheduled time.

9)            Ask questions. Asking questions helps you to speak on what is important to your audience not merely what you think is great for them (Jesus did great ministry through answering questions).

After A Speaking Engagement

1)            Seek response from participants and use the feedback to improve

2)            Look for more speaking opportunities

3)            Attend other people’s speaking engagements and learn

4)            Join speaking clubs, classes or story telling clubs

Additional skills like poise, body posture, tonal variation, use of appropriate props, audience involvement are better taught in such forums.

In Conclusion

Lastly, remember whatever we do must be for God’s glory. We are only vessels as 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 reminds us that we should not be demonstrating our wisdom but God’s power. “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

And for those still in fear, this is God’s promise in Exodus 4:12 (NIV) Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

What would you do when you deliver a section of the talk, ask a question and the audience doesn’t respond and stare at you as if you are an alien from Mars?

This situation can be caused by these three things:

1) Because they have understood
2) Because they have not understood
3) External factors like hunger, fatigue

So always prepare questions to gauge my crowd. If you discover the reason is 3 above, have short activities before proceeding to the next chunk.

Plus as much as possible, avoid anything close to lunch with a crowd that hasn’t been fed before the presentation.

There are instances where you are given blank slate of time ie the host says you have morning (9am) to lunchtime (1pm). How do you prepare for that?

Gather as much information as possible.

1) Have pre-made written tests (similar to a workbook) that your audience can fill immediately you get to the event (30 mins to 1 hour). This can form the basis of your talk. In this model, time flies without you noticing.

2) You can also bring other facilitators to pick up the slots before you (curtain-raisers). Please note that you must pick them very wisely so you complement each other rather than compete with one another.

3) You can also carry out themed team building activities to be a breather after every activity. This is where the participants share what they would have learned.

Apart from freestyle speakers, what other types of speakers are there?

Apart from the off the cuff guys, all the rest depend on something (PowerPoint, micro notes on papers, index cards, etc) to direct them as they talk – or else you risk losing track of your intended speech.

Where can one join speaking clubs, classes or story telling clubs?

Reading clubs and speaking clubs are so many. Check out Toastmasters among others.

Schools are also great places to build your speaking confidence.

Volunteer in church leadership/groups to give you an opportunity to develop confidence and learn how to interact with people. Whenever they ask for one to give a vote of thanks, take it as a practice opportunity.

Always have in your pocket a card with 3 or 5 key points for a talk even if you don’t refer to it. You never know when you might need it.

What do you use to prepare your index cards? Do you print them out or handwrite them?

You can have printed cards with spaces in between to handle any revelation that lands as you near the date of the speech.

Helpful Reads

You can refer to the following titles from time to time for additional help:

1)            The Art of Public Speaking – Dale Carnegie

2)            How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere: The Secrets of Good Communication – Larry King

3)            How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

4)            How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

5)            How to Analyze People On Sight – Benedict & Benedict

6)            Talking To Strangers – Malcom Gladwell

EXAMPLE:

Slide1: My name is Muthoni Mercy, the team leader (a grade 9 student) at CLC
Kenya (XYZ school) in Nairobi. Kenya.

Slide2: I am passionate about Training and Writing.

(Not included in the slides projection should be your journey in these two
gifts and talents as below).

When I was 10 years old, I was attending a prayer meeting in my local church
when the preacher pointed at me and prophesied that God would use me to train
pastors in my adult life. I was born in a business family and that seemed like
a more possible direction to take than pastoral work so I did not take much thought
in this. Many years later, God would lead my life into full time ministry work
where I train the community – writers, authors and pastors – equipping and empowering
them towards their ministries.  

In my writing journey, I fell in love with English in High School. While my
ascent is a bit affected by my mother tongue, my written English was outstanding
and I would write many poems and later discard them. I have developed it
further to writing four books, one of which is a program that minsters to a
couple hundreds of parents.

Slide3: My Life’s Milestones

1.     Pastors Training

2.     Writing Classes

3.     Publishing Authors

4.     Authors Collaboration

5.     Family Picnics

6.     African Christian Authors Book Award

(Not included in the slides projection should be a further expounding of the
milestones as below).

I have been privileged to use my training and writing gifts to impact those
around me. In 2019, together with the team at CLC Kenya and a partner from
South Korea, we ministered to 300 pastors in Nairobi and Mombasa over a 3 days
conference. This was a monumental point in my life with God confirming my
calling and His prophesy concerning me.

I have managed to start and run 4 writing classes, 6 publishing groups, 2
family reading picnics and an author’s club that networks about 60 authors. My
most recent project is the African Christian Authors Book Award that seeks to recognize,
celebrate and promote quality in Christian authorship in East Africa.

Slide4: My Future Aspirations

To contribute significantly towards building a reading culture in my country
Kenya and in my continent Africa.

(Not included in the slides projection should be an explanation of the
aspiration above as below).

The legacy I seek to leave behind is a nation and a continent that records
its past and past as well as put in paper its future aspirations for the generations
coming behind it to build on. While I know I cannot achieve this alone or even
by myself, I am open to collaborate with others of like mind to make this dream
come true. I have made some small steps towards this and I look forward to how
things will look up tomorrow.

Slide5: My Contacts

Email: Muthoni.mercy@cblafrica.com

Facebook, LinkedIn: Muthoni Omukhango

WhatsApp: +254733817962

Website: www.muthoniomukhango.kenyaclc.org

(Not included in the slides projection should be you reading out your
contacts as below).

You can reach me on Email, Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp and my website

Slide6: Thank You!

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About Me

About Me

Those close to me know that my passion burns the core of who and what I am. This passion was in Finance, Accounting and Business Consultancy for many years (and it was great while it lasted). However, books are my first love career-wise.

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