Apologising for nerves during a speech
Embrace the silence
Last weekend I spent the day with a group of young people between the ages of 17 and 23, who were all completing a 10 week Prince’s Trust challenge.
These young people had all come from disadvantaged backgrounds and trouble homes, but have enrolled on the course to help them get their lives back on track and learn valuable skills that will help them to achieve their full potential.
As part of the course, which has included learning team building skills, working on community projects and developing leadership qualities, the team are expected to give a presentation to 150 people at their ‘passing out’ event. Such a task is daunting for many of us who have not experienced the things these young people have and so for them to step up and present in such a way is absolutely huge.
Working with several of my colleagues from Hamwic Speakers I spent the day with the group of six to help them overcome their fears and produce outstanding presentations for this event.
I have to say it was the most rewarding thing I have done in a long time. I truly believe I gained just as much from it as I hope the Prince’s Trust group did.
As with most young people. Chatting, laughing and having ‘banter’ amongst a group of peers was not a problem for this group. However, as soon as the situation became formal, and the public speaking was expected to be more structured, nerves began to kick-in.
The first exercise we therefore completed was to get each team member to tell us what they did at the weekend. I began by telling the story about my ridiculous sunburn and then let the others follow on. This was done informally, sat down and at the end I pointed out that everyone had already given a speech. We were away – the development had begun.
The following hours was spent working individually with the team after seeing them present briefly stood in front of an audience, talking about themselves. We looked at ways theirs first speech could be improved and how these lesson could be applied to the second, and most important speech in a few weeks time.
Room for improvement was identified in body language, losing notes (each individual knew their Prince’s Trust story so well they really didn’t need them) and engaging with the whole audience, not just that one friendly face in the front row.
The strengths of this group when it came to public speaking were in bringing emotion and passion to their speeches – something you don’t often find in young people nowadays (apparently!)! These youngsters were truly grateful for the opportunities that the Prince’s Trust had given them and this showed in their speech content and delivery. Their body language became more animated and enagaging, smiles shone through and brilliant stories were told about the past ten weeks as they began to talk about the Prince’s Trust. So many accomplished, experienced and professional speakers find it hard to produce real emotion and here were these so-called ‘disadvantaged youths’ doing it completely naturally!
When the time came for the second set of speeches, a practice of what would be delivered at the Prince’s Trust ‘passing out’ style event, the improvements that occurred were unbelievable and produced a huge sense of pride in everyone present. This had happened in just one morning. Imagine the development that will occur in these young people over the coming months and years – they really have the potential to be stars.
For me, the biggest improvement came in each youngster due to one large factor – belief. We spent the morning teaching public speaking skills, but by doing this we also helped (I hope) the group to realise that their story was important. That the people who would be present in a few weeks time wanted to hear their story and that they would truly delight in hearing them tell it well. Believing that your audience wants to hear your story will inspire confidence in any one and it worked wonders here.
To any one involved with the Prince’s Trust who is reading this – thank you for giving me the opportunity to work with you. The work the Trust is doing is truly inspirational.
I will be at the final event for this group of youngsters on the afternoon of the 29th July in Basingstoke to provide last minute advice and watch the group wow their families, delegates, peers and tutors and will of course do my best to blog about it soon.