School speeches can send shivers up your spine even when remembering them from years ago! Speaking in front of other people is one of humanity’s most common fears, stemming from social anxiety. You don’t have to be social anxious generally to not like giving a speech, but it does press a lot of people’s buttons as a fear response. There are more people looking at you, listening to what you have to say, judging how you sound, and there may be a competitive element if you want your speech to get into semi-finals or win a school-wide competition. Physically it means you might feel those annoying nervous body responses – fast heartbeat, dry mouth, sweaty palms, shaking legs. For some children who have speech issues, language difficulties, a stutter, selective mutism, social anxiety, preparation for school speeches can be stressful let alone getting to the actual day of your speech!

Here are a few tips for you to pass on as you help your child during the season of school speeches:

  1. Prepare a speech based on a subject you know a lot about, enjoy and/or are willing to research. The better you know a subject, the more likely you’ll have some natural confidence about the topic vs having to read the big, long words you recently just learned.
  2. Find sounds and words in the speech that you more often trip up on and practice saying them or swap them to a different word if necessary. You can choose a word and say it slowly 10x, then put it into a short phrase before saying again in the sentence. Repetition is key for learning something before it feels natural and automatic. If you find this difficult, seek a Speech-Language Therapist to help you learn the sounds or words that you are having trouble with.
  3. Before you have to say it live during school speeches, practice saying your speech standing up, so your body gets familiar with the feel of presenting. Say your words with a slower rate of speech than you feel is just right. When you stand up in front of people, you naturally go faster with talking (that’s often because your heart is beating faster and makes your breath shallow and fast too!). If you practice a little slower, it may help you to go at a just right pace when you are presenting your speech. If you do go too fast, people may have trouble hearing what you are saying clearly and miss important information that you want to give them.
  4. Record the speech and watch it over to see if there are places where you go too fast. Are there body movements that you need to stop doing so that people aren’t distracted by those movements? Perhaps you might want to practice looking around at different parts of the room to pretend that you are giving eye contact rather than reading your notes. You are more likely to notice things you want to change when you look or listen back over a recording than if someone tells you to change something. When you watch yourself speaking, look for the good things you are doing too!
  5. Practice some calming techniques. You might practice saying positive things out loud daily e.g. “I’m awesome and I will be proud of myself when I’ve done my best”. You might try breathing techniques e.g., in breath for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, out for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts. You might listen to a calming meditation or clear your worried mind with a walk. Punch a pillow! What works for you? If you prepare with a calm mind, practice with a calm mind, then give your speech with your body feeling more calm than nervous energy you will feel much better and probably do a lot better too!
  6. If you have a stutter and it happens more frequently during a speech and you don’t want it to, look at this post where my young friend Ben talks a little about how a ‘Jack and Jill breathing hill’ helped his talking so he could say his speech to his class.

Good luck with the season of school speeches. I hope you feel more confident to talk to a group once you have given your best at your speech this year.

Feel free to give me a call if you would like some extra help for your speech (I can’t write it for you though).

Melva Ritchie – Tongue Twisters
027 247  8214

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