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I read this lovely blog post yesterday by Lin Stone about a Sunday school group he used to teach, and his method for encouraging the children to try public speaking.
His uncomplicated approach was wonderful to read about:
1. He suggests the students do the impossible. This creates an air of excitement and anticipation of what's to come.
2. When they balk after learning what the "impossible" is going to be -- speaking in front of the church congregation -- he simply encourages them with "You can do it."
3. He teaches them how to research and prepare their talks, but suggests they not write down or memorize their material. His goal for them is to connect with the audience.
The students are prepared, but not having written notes or memorized material gives them freedom not to "lose their place" or forget what they were going to say. They know what they want to say, and they will deliver it without crutches or dependence.
4. He gives them a simple test: If they can clench their toes or touch their thumb to forefinger before the speech, then they are ready to go forward. This means that their mind is in control, and not the fear.
5. The last thing he asks them to do is to touch the microphone briefly before they begin talking:
"When you go to the lectern I want you to reach out and touch that microphone for just a second so you will remember its purpose is to connect you with every person out there in the congregation. You have something important to say, you want it to be heard. That microphone is your best friend."
This is such a sweet, simple story. Please make sure you get over there and read it. And of course, the children all do well, even while their parents are petrified at the prospect.
If only we could go back to that time when we were children, and we were yet to develop so many insecurities about what people think of us. If only we could go back to the time when "doing the impossible" was actually possible in our minds and we were willing to take that leap of faith without needing beta blockers or a glass of wine to get us through it!
We build up so much drama about public speaking and how much we're supposed to hate and fear it. Wouldn't it be great to let that go and just DO it?