What I learned from teenagers about public speaking

Speaking is an art. It requires practice and the flourish of creative delivery. It is also an activity that elicits much anxiety in people.

Last week I was honored to be a judge at the Homeschool national speech and debate competition in Colorado Springs which drew over 600 teenagers.

Every event I judged was amazing. These students (age 12-18) taught me a few things about public speaking.

  • They were well prepared. I believe 90% of how well a talk will go is determined in the preparation. Alas, many don’t take the time it takes to be well prepared or even know how to do that effectively. A fantastic resource for that is the SCORRE conference.
  • They were well rehearsed. These speakers spent significant time perfecting their delivery, making sure every aspect was thought through with excellence in mind. You knew they were never just “winging” it.
  • They were well mannered.¬†They thanked me profusely for judging their speech and were genuinely touched that I was there. All audiences should feel that way after hearing a speaker.
  • They were well poised. Even with a few “flubs”, these speakers recovered quickly and never let it detract from the overall effectiveness.
  • They were well equipped. I could tell that these speakers had mentors and coaches that wanted nothing but the best for them and gave them tools to get there. Every speaker needs someone in their corner helping them to succeed. It develops confidence.

These young speakers moved me emotionally, stimulated me intellectually, and inspired me to move toward excellence as a speaker. We will be hearing from many them in the future- guaranteed.


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