Public speaking is one of Americans’ greatest fears. It doesn’t matter if they’re talking in class in front of 20 third graders or you’re speaking at a conference in front of 100 people, most people would rather do most anything else rather than talk in public.
Take it from someone who was once terrified of any type of public speaking and now regularly speaks on TV, radio and podcasts — it’s not as hard or scary as you think. If you take the time to prepare, you can be successful and maybe even have a little fun.
Above all else, relax and enjoy it. Know that by taking the time to speak — even if it’s only 15 or 20 minutes — you can plant seeds of knowledge and curiosity about money that can stay with that child for a long time.
For many people, however, relaxing when you’re speaking in public can be far easier said than done. Here are a few key tips.
- Practice: The best way to ease your mind is to practice. (Yes, even when you’re talking to elementary school kids, practice matters.) Think about how best to speak to that particular audience. If you’re looking for more specific help of how to craft your in-class conversation, check out our helpful article called “What to say in class?” It includes the 3 key elements of a successful class conversation, along with the exact outline that TalkingInClass’ founder used when talking to his son’s class.
- Listen to some music before entering the room: You’ll likely be most nervous right before your talk, but music can be an incredibly powerful tool for shaping your mindset. If possible, put on your headphones for a few minutes before to either pump you up or soothe your nerves. (Whichever works best for you is fine.)
- Use personal examples: The better you know a topic, the easier it is to discuss. That makes personal anecdotes a great choice for these types of chats. Also, they’re a great way to keep the conversation relatable. After all, people tend to remember a great anecdote more than a lecture.
- Leave time for questions (and don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”): This is important. Let them ask questions. They will definitely have them. And if a student or a teacher asks you something you don’t know, just say so. You don’t have to know every single thing. It is OK to say, “You know, that’s a really great question. I’ll find that out and send your teacher a note when I find the answer.”
- Remember why you’re there: You volunteered to speak to the class because you know the topic. You’re not speaking about rocket science or some mysterious topic. You’re the expert. Relax, remember that the kids you’ll speak with will really benefit from what you’re about to say, and then go do your thing. You’ll be great.
The bottom line: Have a great time with your talk, but before you set foot in the classroom, be sure to give some thought to what you’re going to say. That way, you’ll be more relaxed, you’ll give better examples and a more focused talk, and you and the kids will both get more out of the time you spend together.