The juggle is real, as I’m sure many of you can relate.
These are scary times for small business owners. I’m trying to stay engaged with clients to keep our business afloat while throwing chicken nuggets and carrot sticks at my young daughters for lunch while trying to keep the house quiet for my husband’s conference calls that he’s now taking at home. Run the dog. Survive the grocery store. Track down TP. Scroll endlessly through Facebook. So much to do.
Luckily I remembered a suggestion on how to keep the kids learning and preoccupied during these long days: give them a topic to master. So yesterday I told my oldest Avery (9 years old) that she had to research a country. I told my youngest Harper (6) that she had to research an animal.
They both had to use at least three different sources, write down facts or learnings, then write an essay about what they learned. The oldest jumped on it. The youngest needed help crafting an topic sentence, three informational sentences, and a conclusion sentence. To spice things up (and take up more time because vacuuming, emails, meal planning, and Instagram were beckoning me), they also had to draw an illustration to accompany their essay. To my surprise, they were totally into it. Half-way through the day I had another bright idea.
They’d have to present their research to my husband and I!
It was good in theory but I ran out of home-learning steam because, instead, we ended up playing with legos, ordering take-out from a local restaurant (support small business!), and snuggling on the couch. Around 5:30pm my youngest exclaimed, “Wait! Weren’t we supposed to present our topics!?”
I set the ground rules. Go practice. Read over your essays. Decide what you want to share. You can’t read your notes. You can make an outline as a reference for talking points. That’s it. They both began practicing, even my 6 year old! (My speaker-coaching-heart exploded with pride!). My oldest was struggling because her essay was almost two pages. Surely she couldn’t memorize it so quickly. Precisely! We worked on an outline, the main themes of what she learned, and wrote down a few data points that she wanted to make sure were accurate.
A few minutes later, they stood in the middle of our living room while my husband, myself, and even our dog, sat attentively. They rocked it; from turkey poop facts to the rhythmic music of Columbia!
It was after this experience that I thought, surely I can’t be the only parent trying to keep their kids busy and learning. But I may be the only parent trying to teach them presentations skills during these days.
Here’s a sobering truth.
If they’re nervous speakers now (even in the first grade), they’ll be nervous speakers 20 years from now. Unless they get guidance and practice.
So here are five ways to practice presentations at home with your kids:
1. Make them practice
Don’t let them wing it and don’t let them read it. Give them time to read over their information and topic. If they need help (like my oldest), help them write an outline of the main ideas. This will help them feel more organized and prepared. No sentences! The outline should only have phrases to guide them, not script them. They also don’t have to present everything they learned, just the things they found interesting or noteworthy.
2. Be positive
If they look nervous or feel odd, remind them that it’s okay. They don’t have to be perfect. This. Is. Huge. Don’t be domineering and add unnecessary pressure. They’re kids, for goodness sakes. If your feedback is harsh, or they feel like they have to prove themselves to you, you will produce a fear of public speaking that will likely last a lifetime. I know. My clients tell me these stories all the time. So when they lose their spot or doubt themselves, give them a kind gentle nudge, ‘It’s okay. Just keep going. What else did you learn?”
3. Do Q/A at the end
It’s important that they learn presenting is about connecting with the audience, not just reciting facts. When you ask questions at the end, it makes it feel more like a conversation. Don’t ask questions to test their learning. Ask questions to engage them. I asked Avery if she would ever personally want to travel to Columbia (please say no, please say no) and Harper if she personally liked turkeys after learning about them. This got them to talk with us instead of talking at us.
4. Provide one coaching tip mid-practice
I noticed that Harper was playfully swaying during her presentation (which was endearing in her pink pajamas but won’t be as endearing in a business suit in front of a board room someday). So very gently and briefly, in the middle of her talking, I said, “Sweetie, try to stop swaying but keep going.” Sure enough, boom. She stopped swaying. I noticed Avery’s sentences sounded like questions at the end and she was saying ummm often. Obviously she was doubting herself. I gently asked her to repeat the last few sentences, but this time sounding sure and confident. I also suggested she slow down a bit and pause at the periods or commas in her talk (something we’ve playfully worked on in the past). Immediately she fixed the inflections in her voice and eliminated all the filler words. Bottom line, kids can learn confident speaking behaviors even now. Don’t overwhelm them with constant interruptions and focus on just one skill to develop while they practice.
5. Celebrate them
Give them a big round of applause! It’s so important to receive positive reinforcement early on in development, especially in this arena of public speaking. Make it a positive experience!
And if you thought these tips were just for them, they’re not. They’re for you too. If you want some more guidance and dozens of more practice and speaking tips, go to our online crash course for presenters. Look more credible during those virtual meetings or head back to work more confident than ever!