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Guest Speaker's Speech to Children's Group or Club

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 24 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Guest Speaker Speech Children Club Group

If you’ve been asked to speak to a children’s group, then the good news is that you’ve been given one of the most interested audiences in the world – and at their age there’s just so much to discover about the world.

Fortunately, for all the benefits of the search engines and the internet, nothing is going to replace listening to a really fascinating talk, face to face. Cast your mind back to your own childhood – I’ll bet you recall one or two excellent speakers who really stuck in your mind – but I’ll also bet you can remember the bad ones too!

Speaking to kids is a great opportunity – but there are potential pitfalls to avoid and it does call for a different approach from most other kinds of speech. It’s not just a question of scattering a few references to Harry Potter and iPods randomly through your talk and then proceeding to give the same style of presentation that you might in a business meeting. It won’t work and you won’t fool the kids for a minute.

Read through the following template, it’ll give you some ideas and a few examples of how it can work in practice, and by the time you’ve finished, you’ll be all set to be a memorable speaker – for all the right reasons!

1. Getting Off To A Good Start

One of the biggest stumbling blocks with speaking to youngsters is grabbing their attention. They have the most inquiring minds in the universe, but they don’t have an unlimited supply of patience – so whatever you do, don’t bore them. Once you lose a young audience, you’re very unlikely to get them back – so plan to get them interested from the start.

Of course, if you’re 20 years old and ideally plan on turning up in torn jeans with a skateboard under your arm you’ll probably do that instantly, but for the rest of us “oldies” (and remember, when you were a kid, you too thought that anyone over 30 was really, really old) we’re going to have to work at it.

  • Your opening sentence needs to grab their interest instantly; make a bold statement – or pose an intriguing question; it’ll keep them wondering how you’re going to answer it
  • Use language and a structure that is appropriate to the age of the children – but don’t “talk down” to them or try to sound like their teacher (however good he or she is!)
  • Don’t fidget; kids spot it in a moment and they’ll pay more attention to what you’re doing than what you’re saying (how many of your old teachers’ odd habits can you still mimic, even now?)
  • Above all else make it interesting!

Example: I don’t like vegetables! I don’t, I don’t, I don’t! That’s what I used to tell my mum when she wanted me to eat up all my greens – and I wouldn’t eat them, no matter how hard she tried. I think I must have been a really horrible child, when I was your age – and that was a very, very long time ago. But then one day something happened that changed all that and made me realise what I’d been missing. I’d like to tell you that story today.

2. Developing Your Theme

Whatever the topic of your speech, it’s particularly important when addressing young people to develop a good narrative and make sure there’s a proper and very clear beginning, middle and end to the story.
  • Don’t labour any point for too long; keep the momentum up and things moving along
  • Your speech is a journey – so include your “passengers” and make them feel a part of the ride
  • Make good eye contact with the group, it’s reassuring and keeps them listening
Example: One of the things we noticed as we climbed higher up the mountain, was the many different kinds of birds that were to be found above the tree line. Now that surprised us all. Everyone on the team is a very experienced climber and most of us have been on similar expeditions all over the world – so we were expecting the usual few species, but for some reason on this particular peak, there were far more. None of us had any idea why that should be – and we’re still trying to find out now – but if I do ever get an answer, I’ll be sure to let you know!

3.Drawing To A Close

Every good speaker needs to leave his audience satisfied, but at the same time, wanting more. A good ending to your talk will cement your memory as one of the “greats” of their childhood.

  • If you began with a question, make sure you have answered it
  • Pull everything together and make your ending very clear
  • Thank everyone
Example: So although it’s hard to think about exploring other planets and what we might find there if we do, it isn’t really so very impossible – it doesn’t have to be something that can only happen on Star Trek. When I was a small boy, nobody had walked on the moon but today the moon-landings sound like ancient history. So maybe we’ll get there after all and perhaps one of you will be the first person to walk on Mars and I’ll get to watch you on my TV. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you all today and thank you for listening to everything I had to say.

Well done – they’ll certainly remember you. Now take a deep breath, have a quick drink of water and prepare yourself for the inevitable questions; if you’ve done your job properly, you’re going to be answering plenty of them!

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Remember, children can't be expected to have the same attention span as adults. You need to keep your speech short or they're going to become bored. Use age-appropriate language without talking down to them - kids can understand more than you might think, and can often take in complex concepts, although they might not get polysyllabic words. Keep it all straightforward, and above all, keep them entertained, keep their brains engaged in order to get the most from them. Remember, too, to lave a period for questions.
David - 2-Jul-12 @ 11:30 AM
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