I can only speak for myself, but I become a lot more nervous when I am asked to come and speak to a group of young, pre-high school, kids. I’m not quite sure why this is – perhaps it’s because I don’t believe that they know about importance of public speaking and will be willing to follow the “rules” that my adult audiences do. You know what I’m talking about: they can turn out to be unpredictable, demanding, and boisterous. All too often the young audiences that I talk to have to be there – they are not there because they want to be. Talk about a tough crowd!
It’s All About The Visuals
When you are presented with an opportunity to talk with a young audience, you have to start by putting yourself into their shoes. Yes, this may have been a long time ago, but still you have to try. Kids are not like the adult audiences that we normally address. You need to think like a kid – sorta goofy and not an adult. You want your audience to treat you like an equal even while they understand that you are not like them.
You want your young audience to enjoy themselves while you are making your presentation. You need to understand that at their age they don’t have the ability to sit through a speech and listen to you. What you are going to have to do is to come up with ways to keep your audience stimulated and entertained. One of the most important things that we need to realize is that instead of trying to use words to connect with children, we need to take the time to work visual elements into our speech.
You need to use humor in any speech that you give to young people. This will cause them to laugh and will help to keep their attention on what you’ll be saying next. The younger the audience is, the more important the visuals will be. As the age of your audience gets older, you can start to use fewer props and start to use more words. You need to be very careful and not sacrifice your content in order to entertain your audience.
Keep It Moving
When we are addressing an adult audience, we can take our time and develop our ideas. Many of the ideas and concepts that we present to adults are complex and we need to work to introduce the new ideas to them. Once they grasp the new ideas, we can share with them how the can apply these ideas to the problems or situations that they are currently facing. However, when our audience consists of young children, this approach is not going to work.
The problem that you will be facing is going to have to do with attention. Your young audience is simply not going to have the attention span to stay with you as you slowly develop a complex idea. Since your audience is not going to change to match you, you are going to have to change to match your audience. The younger your audience is, the faster the pace of your speech is going to have to be and the more animated you are going to have to be while you deliver your speech.