so you think you can speak
Posted on 19 March 2013
I routinely get calls from folks looking for two things: they want me to publish or sell their books, and they want me to get them speaking gigs. My father, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, was a world-renowned speaker and bestselling author. He claimed that teaching a Sunday school class to a bunch of eight-year-old boys is how he kicked off his public speaking career. I heard this many times growing up and thought, how on earth could speaking in a church basement to a small group of kids prepare you for speaking in front of millions of people??
Later in life, I got the chance to find out. There are three main reasons why speaking in front of children is one of the best ways to hone your public speaking skills.
[caption id="attachment_1517" align="alignright" width="300"] Honing my speaking skills![/caption]
1) Be Simple! My father wrote about the SIB–KIS principle in his motivational classic, Life Is Tremendous. It’s an acronym for See It Big–Keep It Simple. As Albert Einstein said, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.” When you distill leadership principles or concepts to kids under ten, you have to really drill down to the basics.
2) Be Engaging! Great public speakers know how to work the stage and engage the audience. This involves a great deal of movement, voice inflection, and activity. Nothing makes you “work it” like being facing 250 fifth graders staring expectantly at YOU! You better be good…no, you better be great! You better be funny! You better have great stories that capture their attention and you better be moving around and engaging them personally.
3) Be Ready! There’s no doubt about it, kids say the darndest things. If they don’t think you’re a good speaker, they’ll let you know right away, sometimes even by saying it out loud! Watching the little ones’ body language teaches you immediately what’s working and what’s not. It also teaches you to be ready for any comment or activity at any time throughout your speech.
So you think you can speak? Why not volunteer at a local library, YMCA, or any of the numerous summer programs to test your mettle. Trust me; it’ll be the most challenging and rewarding speaking engagement of your life!