One Sunday my two children were to give talks. We had practiced and practiced, but they both came down with acute stage fright and stammered through. Twice before, they had spoken with great success. What made the difference? The key seemed to be in preparation and practice.
Before your child is even asked to speak, prepare him for being in front of people. At the end of family home evening, we have a time for everyone to choose something to perform for us. Children enjoy this kind of fun, and it helps them gain confidence. Participating in family prayer and expressing their testimonies to family members can also help children feel more secure when speaking to an audience.
When a talk is assigned, let the child talk about something he is familiar with and can tell in his own words. A story about the child or his family is especially good. Benjamen’s first talk had been about his sister Olivia’s ring. He told how we lost it, prayed to find it, and did. He was familiar with the story and could tell it in his own way. He felt comfortable with it. Helping your child choose a topic he feels is relevant will give him a greater opportunity for success.
Once the topic is chosen, keep the talk short and simple. One story or one point is usually enough for a child’s talk.
Another important part of helping children give talks is practice time. The following are some suggestions I have found helpful in practicing talks.
Play church. We set up a pulpit, and I announce each child’s turn. We practice standing straight and tall with our hands down to the side, speaking with a pretend microphone. I show them how to talk into the mike and how close to get so they can be heard.
Practice at bedtime. Children are usually anxious to stay up and will be very cooperative.
Practice early at church. Take time before the meeting to show your children where they will stand, and show them how the microphone moves up and down.
When the hour arrives, sit back and let your child give his talk alone. If you stand by his side, he will look to you for help before he has tried to remember.
If after all the preparation your child does not do as well as you would like, don’t scold him. Find something to praise. Children do not need to be told they have made a mistake. They usually know. Don’t let them feel they can never do well. Focusing on children’s strengths will help them overcome their weaknesses. Always make speaking a positive experience and seek to improve your child with loving guidance. Diana Dunkley, Ogden, Utah