Five tips for building five key leadership skills – Part 3: Public speaking skills

Explore some quick suggestions to develop public speaking skills during youth development activities.


Any project within youth development programs can benefit from adding layers of leadership skills. These skills include decision-making, responsible citizenship, public speaking, setting goals and problem-solving. Infusing these skills will add dimension to any project area.

Feeling comfortable with public speaking is an important part of leadership. Here are a few ways any volunteer can enhance the public speaking skills of their participants:

  • Give youth lots of opportunities to practice speaking in front of their small group to gain confidence. Start small, like giving everyone a chance to name their favorite horse movie or what kind of career they would like to pursue.
  • Invite youth to create an advertisement or media campaign about their club, their project or an issue that they feel strongly about.
  • Even in informal settings, encourage youth to speak clearly, organize their thoughts and stand up tall when speaking.
  • Involve youth with real-world issues. All government meetings, at all levels, from school board to federal government meetings are required to have time for public comment, and this is a great opportunity for youth to both learn about civic involvement as well as practice their public speaking skills.
  • Organize a club exchange with another 4-H club in your area, and give each student 3-5 minutes to demonstrate something in their project area. The youth will have a chance to organize and practice their speech, as well as learn new information from other project areas.

The newly revised Teen Leadership Project Guide is an excellent additional resource to help young people think of leadership as a project, as well as help them plan for how to improve and increase their skills. 

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program helps to prepare youth as positive and engaged leaders and global citizens by providing educational experiences and resources for youth interested in developing knowledge and skills in these areas.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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