Tips for practicing presentation skills

Looking for ways to enhance verbal communication skills? Valuable speaking skills can be practiced and improved in a 4-H setting.

Presentation skills are an important component of leadership skills as well as career preparation. Knowing how to communicate a message clearly and effectively can help youth when they are officers in a club, when they want to speak during public comment at a community meeting or during interviews for jobs or scholarships. Being a part of Michigan 4-H is a great way to practice these skills.

Giving presentations can be intimidating, especially to those who haven’t done much public speaking before. There are many ways to practice these skills in less intimidating circumstances in order to build up confidence and skill sets. Michigan State University Extension offers the following suggestions:

  • Incorporate communication skills into icebreakers and team building games. Even a simple game where youth have to answer a question about themselves is a way to practice public speaking skills.
  • Work on good presentation skills in small increments. For example, have participants introduce themselves to the group with just a few sentences (name, favorite 4-H project and favorite food), but make sure they stand up to address the group and use a clear speaking voice. Make sure all officers giving reports during a club meeting speak loud enough for all to hear and slowly enough for all to understand.
  • Encourage older youth to teach skills to younger youth. This will help them organize their thoughts on the topic and figure out how to explain it to someone else.
  • Rotate tasks throughout the year so youth who are more comfortable with certain skills are not always the ones doing them. For example, if a guest speaker is going to talk to your group, you may decide ahead of time who is going to greet and thank them for coming. This is a great opportunity for someone who is less comfortable with speaking to strangers to try it out for a few minutes.
  • Provide opportunities for youth to give practice demonstrations about their projects to their peers before being judged at fair or an achievement event. Brainstorm as a group ahead of time the type of feedback to look for, such as clarity of explanation, voice diction or volume and distracting habits such “um’s,” pacing or pen clicking.
  • Choose an occasion like National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day (April 2) to have youth put together short, 3-5 minute presentations on easy topics. Sample topics could include how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, how to make jam, how to bake bread or the history of peanut cultivation. Topics could also be widened to such subjects as teaching the 4-H pledge or how to sweep a floor. The idea is to give participants a chance to practice their presentation skills and not worry as much about the content.

Finding ways to incorporate presentation and public speaking skills into normal 4-H club activities is a great way to add value to extracurricular activities. Michigan 4-H offers many resources in the areas of leadership, community service and career preparation.

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