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Public Speaking:

Ten Minutes of Fame

by Ian Mitchell - The Leader - Venturer Log - December 1996

Not long ago I sat through a presentation by Venturers that was aimed at educating parents of first year Scouts. The troop was very active in outdoor activities; the demonstration and talk was intended to drive home the need for good equipment so each youth would enjoy the outdoors to the fullest extent possible.

The Venturers were well-prepared. They had examples (both good and bad) of equipment that each Scout would need: boots, backpacks, rain gear, sleeping bags, all the usual stuff. They spoke knowledgeably and threw in fascinating real-life stories to illustrate a point -- examples that had happened to them. They kept everyone's interest and attention. These Venturers knew their subject well. By the end of the presentation, they convinced me that my son, Mark, would need to update his camping equipment. How did this happen? How was it that several "kids" were able to teach me -- an avid camper -- a few things about today's outdoor equipment?

After thinking about it, I decided that those Venturers were very effective speakers.

Help Me Understand

An EFFECTIVE SPEAKER is one who communicates a message which an audience can understand clearly. The speaker can keep your attention no matter how long your day has been or how knowledgeable you are about the subject matter. The listeners leave being able to summarize the presentation in only a few words.

Becoming an effective speaker takes training and experience, but it's not an impossible mission. Your Venturers will need direction and guidance on how to speak effectively, as well as lots of practice. Start them down that fulfilling road with these tips.

Effective Speaking Hints

  1. Research. After deciding on the topic, find out everything you can about it. Talk to others who know a lot. Look for the latest information; don't rely entirely on information which has been passed on to you.
  2. Organize. Once your research is finished, identify the important parts. List them separately on cue cards. Organize them from the "most needed" information to the "least needed" information. This will not only help you keep track of important points, but also keep you focused if you're interrupted.
  3. Practise. An effective presentation is one that has been practised. When working with your Venturers on this, reinforce vocal techniques and eye contact, as well as timing. If you're going to demonstrate something, make sure everyone will be able to see.
  4. First-hand experiences. Everyone likes to hear about first-hand experiences -- things that really happened to you. When you include real-life, personal anecdotes, you virtually guarantee audience interest. Of course, a humorous experience will add greatly to your speech.
  5. Questions. Be sure to allow time for plenty of questions. Often, you'll need to ask your audience several times. Reassure your Venturers that it's okay to admit that they don't have the answer if they encounter a really tough question. Being able to go away and find an answer, then report back is part of any effective speaker's tool kit.
  6. Handouts. Handouts, photcopies or brochures ensure that your most important information gets special attention. Make these clear and easy to read.

Enthusiasm Counts!

No matter what speaking techniques you use or what the topic you discuss, effective speakers always appear enthusiastic and very interested about their subject. Enthusiasm and preparation go hand-in-hand with effective speaking.

The Venturer program allows for unlimited opportunities for youth to enhance their effective speaking skills -- something they'll use throughout their lives.

Planning events with those in the community, passing on skills and knowledge to others, leading in the company: these are but a few built-in program opportunities allowing Venturers to enhance their skills.

So, cut'em loose! In a short while, you'll be surprised how well your Venturers are speaking in front of others.

"Reproduced with permission of the Leader magazine and the author."

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