Lockdown and public speaking might not seem compatible*, but mastering the art of talking to a crowd is just what young people need right now.
That’s according to public-speaking whiz Kailash Sarma, who is on a mission to help students reeling* from the coronavirus pandemic find their voice and their confidence.
“Public speaking gave me the confidence to try new things, to experiment, and it was a way I could tell my story to someone else,” said Kailash, 17.
The Year 12 student and his public speaking pro dad, Kamal Sarma, have been sharing their know-how with primary and secondary school kids through their Academy of Speakers program for the past two years and have just launched an online program and competition for secondary students called Captivate the Future.
“Right now kids are a bit frustrated at the world and what’s happening but they can’t put their ideas into words,” Kailash said.
“So what Captivate the Future is about is giving them the skills and tools so they can share their message about what they really want to say and what they are passionate about.”
Kailash knows the thought of public speaking is enough to send many people into a cold sweat – he’s been there.
He made his public speaking debut in Year 4 at a time when his confidence had been shattered by a bully.
“I still get scared thinking about it today because you had to go in front of the whole class and recite this poem that made no sense whatsoever,” he said.
“I can’t remember what it was called – I have tried to block out the memory – but I remember it rhymed and even today when I hear a poem that rhymes I think, ‘Oh my god, is it the same poem?’.”
By Year 5, Kailash started to hone* his skills with the help of his father so that he could run for school captain in Year 6.
“He really wanted to get school captain but he was very shy and he couldn’t speak very well,” Mr Sarma said. “So he started to practise and practise. I think that’s a good point for kids – they don’t apply for leadership positions because they are nervous, even though they’d make great leaders.”
Kailash went on to score the role of vice-captain, despite his speech not going to plan.
“I made a joke but I made it so poorly they laughed at me, not at the joke. I can still remember that joke not landing whatsoever,” he said.
But he said making mistakes is a key part of the public speaking learning curve.
“Things like that happen and it’s OK. You have to have the confidence to be OK with that and the resilience* to get back up,” Kailash said.
Mr Sarma said public speaking teaches young people to be comfortable in themselves, flaws and all.
“We live in a society that is very filtered. You filter yourself before posting on Instagram or Facebook to get the right shot,” he said.
“But when you get on stage it’s a very raw experience and you can’t filter or edit yourself.
“So it teaches you about self-esteem*, to accept who you are.”
Kailash said making eye contact and smiling to connect with your audience are other key steps in pulling off public speaking, along with wearing something that makes you feel comfortable and confident.
Kailash, who counts a 4000-strong Sydney Opera House crowd and a community-based TedX event among his public speaking credits, said public speaking skills have huge benefits in day-to-day life, from interacting with teachers to going for a job interview.
His Captivate the Future program provides free videos and practical lessons, covering topics including confidence, silencing your inner critic, using humour and harnessing contagious energy.
Students have the option of entering their own speaking video in a competition at the end of the program, with movie tickets and $1000 in prize money up for grabs.
For more information see captivatethefuture.com
KEYS TO CONFIDENT PUBLIC SPEAKING
- Accept yourself, flaws and all
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, they’ll help you improve
- Don’t make public speaking about yourself, focus on your message and your passion for it
- Don’t let your inner critic hold you back
- Focus on those in your audience who are really engaged with what you’re saying or laughing at your jokes. Soak up this positive energy
- Wear something that makes you feel confident and comfortable
- Don’t clog your speech with big chunks of information – focus on a few key messages
- Smile: it tells the audience you want to be there
- Make eye contact – focus on just a few people
- Try not to let your mind jump ahead while speaking. Pause to think about what comes next
- Be careful with humour – it’s one of the hardest parts of public speaking to master. Stick to safe subjects that don’t cause offence
- Speak from the heart – this will spark emotion in your audience and they will remember how you made them feel
- compatible: two things or people able to exist comfortably side by side
- reeling: feel shocked, off balance or bewildered
- hone: refine or perfect something over time
- self-esteem: self-respect; confidence in one’s own worth
- resilience: ability to recover quickly after difficulty
- What leadership role did Kailash have in Year 6?
- How old is Kailash?
- What will making mistakes help you do, according to Kailash and Kamal?
- What does smiling tell the audience?
- Why is speaking from the heart recommended?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. How will this advice help?
In the article there is some good advice for how to become a confident public speaker. Read through the list and think about why this advice might help with public speaking.
Copy the list into your workbook. (You could copy and paste the list and complete the work on a word document or print it out to paste in your workbook or simply copy down the main idea of each point – eg, speak from the heart.)
Next to each one, write down why this advice might be useful. How will it help improve your public speaking?
Wear something that makes you feel confident and comfortable. Wearing comfortable clothes will mean you wont fidget with your clothes and you can focus on your message rather than if your jacket is straight or your hair is in your eyes.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability
Think about your own ability with public speaking. Which piece of advice would improve your public speaking? Choose one piece of advice that will help you. Why is this piece of advice especially helpful to you? Write down this advice on a card or note paper and place it somewhere where you can refer to it when you are next preparing for public speaking. The inside cover of your workbook perhaps or in a diary are good places.
Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability
With a partner see if you can identify all the doing words/verbs in this text. Highlight them in yellow and then make a list of them all down your page. Now see if you and your partner can come up with a synonym for the chosen verb. Make sure it still makes sense in the context it was taken from.
Try to replace some of the original verbs with your synonyms and discuss if any are better and why.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Share how you feel about public speaking.
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.