People speak in front of a group on a daily basis. It may be the deciding factor in many things such as whether you are selected for a leadership position, a job, and even may help provide information to friends or family. Many individuals fear speaking in front of a crowd, but there are benefits to overcoming this fear and talking in front of a group. The necessary skills associated with being a good public speaker are an important part of the 4-H experience. 4-H programs can provide the “linkster” generation the opportunity to explore these types of project areas, which may be even more important now, in an ever-connected technological society (Newman, 2019). Public speaking is a life skill highly influenced by 4-H participation (Maass, Wilken, Jordan, Culen, & Place, 2006). 4-H clubs are encouraged to provide a positive environment where youth can enhance their skills related to this subject.
Importance of Public Speaking
Club leaders can convey the importance of public speaking to 4-H members. Ryan (2013) identifies some reasons why public speaking is important. These reasons include that public speaking:
- Increases self-confidence.
- Makes you more comfortable around other people.
- Is one of the best ways to get a (better) job.
- Is one of the most effective ways to get your message across.
- Is something you will need to do at some point in your life.
- Will allow you to make a difference in your life, business, community, and career.
- Can boost performance in other areas of life when using the learned skills.
- Allows you to demonstrate your knowledge.
- Allows you to improve upon your knowledge.
- Differentiates you from others in the workforce.
- Will help you form supporters around you.
Above all, public speaking strengthens leadership potential. If you want to be a leader, you must know how to communicate. People follow leaders who inspire them and leaders who communicate their ideas effectively.
How Can Advisors Assist 4-H Members?
In order to enhance 4-H members’ public speaking skills, club advisors can provide assessments and opportunities for them to engage in front of an audience. One of the main ways this can be accomplished is by building it into club meetings as a demonstration. The following are some suggestions for ensuring all members participate in the speaking opportunity and are comfortable doing so.
- Have individuals sign up for a date to give a demonstration related to their project area. If there are a certain number of demonstrations at each meeting or event, this shows:
- The expectation is that all individuals will present on a topic.
- Everyone has a choice of what timing works best.
- Flexibility for members which allows for more confident members to share earlier in the year, serving as an example to less confident members.
- Consistent meeting structure by providing opportunities for the business meeting, programming, and other meeting components to take place at each meeting, not just demonstrations.
- Provide questions to the member about what they will be discussing, such as:
- What topic are you interested in?
- Is the topic interesting or useful to others?
- Does it have one main idea?
- Can you find enough information?
- Can you cover the topic in the length of time available for your demonstration?
- Have the members list what they would like to do. When doing this, consider:
- Prioritizing the topics to demonstrate so members narrow their focus.
- Having members share their topic with an advisor so topics are not repeated among members.
- Encouraging more advanced members to challenge themselves by researching and sharing more complex topics.
- Members should prepare for their demonstration. During this process, members should:
- Learn as much about the topic as possible.
- Gather information from several resources.
- Create an outline of their talking points including an opening, three main points, and a closing.
- Make sure to coordinate with the advisor logistical information, such as:
- How long should the demonstration be?
- What is the audience size?
- What is the time and location of the demonstration?
- Allow members to deliver the actual demonstration. They can be given to the entire club, a few members, or just the advisors. Items for members to consider when speaking in front of a group are to:
- Maintain eye contact with the audience.
- Collect your thoughts to help you speak slowly; take breaths.
- Stand straight and firmly.
- Watch your tone; be relaxed while being engaged.
- Use gestures, but do not overdo it. Gestures can be distracting if they are overused.
- Process the demonstration. After the talk, assist the member to evaluate themself on how well they believe they did. This will assist the learning process and provide specific items for the individual to work on in the future. Potential processing items include:
- Asking the audience what they learned from the presentation or what they liked most about the presentation. This can help the speaker learn about the knowledge gained.
- Having audience members write down items that were done well or could be improved upon. These can then be reviewed later by the presenter.
- Recording the talk so individuals may listen to or view it later to offer self- reflection.
Public Speaking Opportunities
The following are lists of items that 4-H members can explore in order to strengthen their public speaking skills. Club leaders can assist members by incorporating them into their club meetings or sharing information about the opportunities with the individuals.
Basic public speaking opportunities in 4-H:
- Giving a club demonstration on their project or another topic
- Introducing self to a group
- Holding an officer role
- Providing a committee or officer report at a meeting
- Leading and teaching recreation or other club led activity
- Leading pledges
More advanced public speaking opportunities in 4-H are in the areas surrounding:
- 4-H awareness team
- 4-H promotion roles
- Announcing a show at a county or local fair
- Camp counseling
- CARTEENS or another countywide program facilitator
- Demonstration or illustrated talk
- Emceeing a program
- Health and safety talk or skit
- Participating in radio/television interviews
- Peer mediation
- Speaking to civic groups about 4-H
- Style revue narrator
- Teaching a 4-H workshop or clinic
- Teen leadership council member
4-H members should be encouraged to participate in as many opportunities as possible. By engaging in multiple areas, individuals are exposed to new audiences and continue practicing their skills to make them better speakers.
Maass, S. E., Wilken, C. S., Jordan, J., Culen, G., & Place, N. (2006). A comparison of 4-H and older youth development organizations in the development of life skills. Journal of Extension, 44(5). Article 5RIB2. Retrieve from joe.org/joe/2006october/rb2.php
Newman, M. (2019). Linking 4-H to linksters. Journal of Extension, 57(3). Article v57-3comm2. Retrieved from joe.org/joe/2019june/comm2.php
Ryan. (2013, July 6) Why is public speaking important? 11 solid reasons why public speaking in important in your life. Public speaking training that stands out. Retrieved from publicspeakingpower.com/why-is-public-speaking-important/
This fact sheet, originally published in 1999, was originally titled, “Tools for Public Speaking” and was written by David Farrell, of 4-H Youth Development, Ohio State University Extension.