Making speeches from a very young age
I’m passionate about children being confident when they speak in public and it’s something that we are very committed to at Perform. We have numerous exercises that we play with the children at our weekly workshops - public speaking really can be learnt.
Having worked as an actor before I set up Perform, I’m confident speaking in front of large groups of people because of the training and experience I have had and the same goes for all Perform teachers. But not everyone studied drama or has jobs that lend themselves to these skills. I regularly speak to parents who often comment on how they wish they’d learnt the skills that we teach our Perform children when they were young too (because if you learn it at six years old, you have it for life).
So, I wanted to share a very easy activity that you might want to try at home with your children. This came about by accident a few years ago during a noisy lunch with my cousin, Jessica, and our kids. We were sitting around the table and Jessica clinked her glass to make a small speech about how nice it was to see everyone. Then all three children wanted to clink their glasses and make a speech of their own, so in turn they all had a go too. It was very sweet.
This has now become a bit of a family tradition and at all special mealtimes the kids make a speech. Not only is it charming but you can really see them improve from the way they look at everyone, to how they project their voice. The clinking of the glass is the real “carrot” here but they love doing it - and it’s certainly good practice for them.
Another exercise we regularly do at home is one I first discovered when I was 16 years old auditioning for The National Youth Theatre of Wales. The director asked us to speak for one minute without any gaps or pauses on a topic he gave us immediately before our turn.
We play this game at Perform but for the 4-7s it’s “Speak for 30 seconds” and for the 7-12s, “Speak for 60 seconds.” You can play this at home too. Give your child a topic and they have to talk about it for the set amount of time. The important thing is that you join in too and also have a go.
One thing I really believe is that, since most schools have an emphasis on reading, writing and mathematics, there’s not enough focus on speaking skills which are so very vital for success in many areas of life. This makes it all the more important to play short public speaking exercises like these at home - the more you play them the better they become. Think of it like public speaking gym!