Public speaking is a beneficial and important project that all 4-H youth can do, but many youth and adults are shy about getting started. 4-H provides several “low-risk” opportunities for youth to develop confident communication skills. The necessary skills associated with being a good public speaker have always been an important part of the 4-H experience and 4-H clubs are encouraged to foster a positive, learning-oriented environment for youth regarding this subject. Helping young people develop a growth mindset toward their communication skills is one of the top priorities of the Florida 4-H Program.
Why Public Speaking?
Learning to be a good public speaker is something that will be useful throughout a 4-H member’s lifetime. Members who feel comfortable speaking in front of others have a greater sense of self-confidence, a feeling of respect for themselves and others, and generally have a solid feeling of accomplishment. Good public speakers are more apt to do well in a job interview or a presentation in college or in a future career.
The 4-H public speaking program provides opportunities for 4-H members to learn skills in articulating a message. The objectives are to:
- Develop leadership talents and work toward character development and effective citizenship;
- Recognize the value of obtaining all information on a given topic;
- Encourage careful organization of material to be presented;
- Develop a pleasing personal appearance before an audience;
- Acquire the ability to speak convincingly in public.
There is no “right” or “best” way to speak, except to be yourself and to show you are interested in your topic. It is only when you are natural that you communicate your real self—and all speeches need the personality you can give them.
Here are some suggestions to help 4-H youth (and adults) be at their best when giving a speech:
- Get plenty of rest before you meet your audience. Do not eat much before you speak—this can keep the butterflies in your stomach from bothering you too much;
- If you are nervous, breathe deeply and slowly several times just before you are introduced. Relax your arms, legs, and body as much as possible;
- When you are introduced, walk briskly to the lectern, smile, and look at the audience as though you are glad to be there;
- Stand tall—don’t lean on the table, podium, or lectern;
- Be confident from the beginning—first impressions are important. Be sure you speak loudly enough to be heard by all.
Florida 4-H offers many different types of public speaking opportunities for youth to participate in (and adults to judge!). These opportunities can vary from leading a pledge, to giving a demonstration about your pet, to speaking on stage in front of hundreds of people.
Basic public speaking opportunities in 4-H:
- Becoming a club officer;
- Giving a committee report at a meeting;
- Leading pledges;
- Making a motion.
Advanced public speaking opportunities in 4-H:
- Demonstration or illustrated talk at a club meeting;
- County and District Events presentation;
- Health and Safety talk or skit;
- Food preparation talk;
- Speaking to civic groups and local government about 4-H;
- Teaching a 4-H workshop or clinic;
- Camp counseling.
The signature Spring 4-H speaking event is 4-H County Events hosted by individual county 4-H programs. County Events provide youth an opportunity to share their projects through friendly competition. Youth can prepare for 4-H County Events in their 4-H clubs by giving demonstrations and talks to practice this valuable life skill. Contact your local 4-H Agent to learn more about 4-H County Events being offered in your county.
At 4-H County Events, Cloverbuds (ages 5-7) may participate but are NOT judged. They will receive feedback and a participation ribbon. Juniors (ages 8-10), Intermediates (ages 11-13), and seniors (ages 14+) are judged in their respective age divisions. 4-H County Events consists of the following communication venues:
- A Demonstration or Illustrated Talk is a “show and tell” presentation in a specific curriculum area, using posters, props, and/or PowerPoint to communicate your presentation content.
- The Public Speaking program is designed to give 4-H members experience in the preparation and delivery of a 4-H related speech. This contest requires 4-H members to recognize, organize, and present information on a given topic. The timed speech must be orderly and thorough. 4-H members must acquire the ability to speak convincingly in public, expressing ideas effectively with poise and confidence
- The 4-H Share-the-Fun program is designed to help 4_H members discover their talents, develop them, and have opportunities to share those gifts with others.
- The Florida 4-H Photography program encourages self-expression and allows youth to demonstrate skills learned in the area of photography, including the use of photographic equipment and editing tools.
- The Graphic Design Program gives 4-H members an opportunity to use their creativity and artistic ability to promote their project areas or 4-H program. 4-H members are encouraged to develop their visual communication skills by also identifying locations to display their created materials as a means to communicate with external audiences about the 4-H program.
In 4-H, youth learn by doing, and the best way to learn about giving a speech is to get up in front of others and give one. To always “Make the Best, Better,” encourage youth to give a speech at their next 4-H meeting, in their classroom, or wherever an audience is gathered. The goal of becoming a better public speaker starts with that first speech.