Improving your public speaking, part 5: Putting it all together

Simple exercises that folks of all ages can do to improve their public speaking.

Three young adult participants in from the Michigan 4-H Youth Leadership & Global Citizenship Spectacular presenting in front of their peers.
Photo of past participants from the Michigan 4-H Youth Leadership & Global Citizenship Spectacular.

This the fifth part of a series of five articles that can be used together with groups of youth who want to learn more about public speaking. It can be used by 4-H clubs, student councils, school classrooms, or virtually any group looking to learn tips for public speaking. Many people fear talking in front of others for many reasons and these activities will allow participants to start simple and then add more skills to strengthen their public speaking as the lessons move on.

Supplies needed for this exercise include an easel or board to write on and writing utensils; optional additional materials include markers, poster board, internet access and computers.

Step 1

All meetings should start with an icebreaker. Ask participants if they could pick one public speaker who does a great job, who would it be, and why. This could be an actor, politician, teacher, newscaster, athlete, or anyone they know.

Step 2

Brainstorm with participants on all the good aspects of a good presentation. Write those items up on an easel or board. (Refer to previous weeks for examples)

Step 3

Tell participants they will have the rest of the time at the meeting to prepare a 5-10 minute presentation. Encourage each person to include at least one visual aid as part of their presentation. This might be slides, a poster, or a physical object. Students may wish to create note cards but also might not – either is ok. As students are preparing, the facilitator should go around asking questions about the presentation to get them thinking about what they need to do to be successful.

Step 4

Have each student present. You could spend week 5 preparing for the presentation, and the final week holding the actual presentation.

Step 5

When the presentation is done, ask the presenters how they thought they did. Let the other participants comment on the presentation first. If participants say a lot of positive things, you may want to focus on constructive criticism; if participants say a lot of negative things, you may want to focus on what went well. If only one member of the group is responding to questions/comments, you might want to ask another member of the group specifically. 

Some ideas on things to comment on:

  • Clarity and volume of voice
  • Use of visual aids
  • Body language
  • Selection of topic
  • How well they engaged the audience
  • Timing

Step 6

Reflect on the entire experience with the participants. What were the most helpful things on the public speaking journey? Would they like to continue public speaking? How might they use the skills they have learned? What advice would they give a friend who is preparing their first presentation?

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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